Nanostructured Energy Materials Lab
Moon Jeong Park (Chemistry)
Even such careers as seemingly different as those of fashion designers and chemists, are engaged in similar work. Just as fashion designers cut and sew fabric to create the shape of their garments, chemists study and synthesize materials to present their final outcomes that go towards serving our essential needs. One prime example is the application of ethylene glycol, which has been used in anti-freezing liquids, to produce the polymer compounds that make up PET bottles.
The Nano Structured Energy Materials Laboratory headed by professor Moon Jeong Park at the Department of Chemistry, POSTECH, focuses on the analysis and synthesis of energy-related organic/inorganic polymer materials. One of its main research topics is that of batteries: researchers are developing cathodes made from sulfur polymers for ‘lithium-sulfur batteries’ and are also exploring ways to shift from liquid to solid electrolyte that is required for battery manufacturing to help mitigate any risk of explosion. By adopting sulfur as the cathode material, lithium-sulfur batteries are able to support four to five times the electric capacity of lithium-ion batteries, all with an affordable price point. This makes it an attractive option for its potential to lead the future of the rechargeable battery market.
Recently, the Lab has been working on artificial muscles through the use of conductive polymers that are actuated when provided with electricity. The artificial muscle materials that have been developed are only operable at high voltage levels and thus require large and heavy equipment. The polymer materials under development at the Lab can be operated at voltage levels ranging from 1 to 2, indicating that artificial muscles comprised of such materials can be sufficiently powered by relatively small batteries. This research on low-power self-locking artificial muscles which actually mimic the movements of a Venus Flytrap was featured at the international academic Journal of ‘Advanced Materials’ in 2018.
The Nano Structured Energy Materials Laboratory covers a wide range of areas from basic theoretical research to application and device development. The Lab published a paper on ‘ice surface chemistry’ in 2015, which deals with how to synthesize conductive polymers with high electrical conductivity at the ice surface. Researchers, in their attempts to polymerize monomers within ice cracks as the reactor, coincidentally discovered that monomer-laminated ice surfaces generated colors with the passage of time. Such colors indicate that monomers turned into low-band gap polymers to develop conductivity and also serve to predict the level of conductivity.
Professor Park commented that research on fundamental chemistry can be performed well by such ‘geeks’ who often delve into a particular interest with abandon or are dexterous enough to compensate for their relative lack of knowledge. As chemistry overlaps so many areas of industry, it is easy to find one’s own personal niche within it and there is an ongoing demand on the part of businesses to recruit talent from this background. Professor Park speaks to this idea directly in saying “ Everyone at our Lab is engaged in their own research topics and are held accountable in standing behind their work from A to Z”, adding “This experience will surely prepare them for whatever challenges and opportunities may await them in their professional life”.
Head of Lab
Research Building Ⅱ 107