The 15th Korea-US Forum on Nanotechnology, in conjunction with Nano Korea 2018 and the 16th Nano Convergence Exhibition, was held from July 11th to July 13th at KINTEX, in Goyang, Korea. The events featured stalls set up by well-known companies such as Samsung and LG, and other international organizations, as well as renowned professors from around the world to showcase their findings on various experiments. Three of us attended this event to see for ourselves the breakthroughs in nanotechnology.
The exhibition, held in Halls 7 and 8, featured 600 booths and over 12 thousand participants from around the world. They were divided by the industry they were involved in – Lasers, Ceramics, Nano fabrication, Nano/High functional materials, Smart sensors, Nano-systems – as well as research institutes and universities.
A notable stop we made was at the LG booth, where LG showed off their signature OLED display and various nanomaterials. The most memorable part was the new Crystal Sound OLED Television, revealed earlier this year. These came with LG’s signature OLED display, but with a slight twist – it had no speakers. Instead, a pair of exciters, placed directly behind the light panels, vibrated the screen itself. This, along with the thinness of the OLED screen, allowed a clear sound to be produced. But this was not the only paper-thin screen here. At the front of the exhibit, another display was set up, the surface of which was “painted” in vibrant, swirling colors. These videos were perfect to show the advantages of OLED: with none of the backlight that exists in LCD screens, the OLED screen allows for better contrast and a wider viewing angle, as well as a response time 1,000 times faster than LCDs. Surprisingly, when we walked around it, the backside was also playing an independent spectrum of colors, despite being stuck together on an extremely thin display. All in all, we were impressed by LG’s high-quality displays.
The Canadian booth, another major stop, featured many different types of technology that are being created in various different fields, such as graphite for lithium ion batteries. But one technology that stood out to us the most was the carbon nanotubes. As soon as we entered the booth, Mr. Jefford J. Humes came to us eager to talk about his company’s product and asked us if we had any questions. He explained that these nanotubes could conduct electricity and came in two types – regular and semiconducting – so they could be used to create a circuit. Afterwards, he held up two vials of the nanotubes, and explained why they were so special. He explained, “after applying the solution, heating it up so the solution evaporates, and wiping it with some water, you’ve got yourself a wire that you can use to create circuits with, on any surface.” He continued by saying that this allowed the technology of fiction to become reality, such as “electrically powered clothes that can be warmed with a single press of a button.” Leaving with the vials of nanotubes that he gifted us, we were all imagining the future where electronics are completely integrated into our lives. Now, even the self-drying jacket from Back to the Future seemed plausible.
After walking around the exhibition, we walked into the seminar room that was hosting speakers from both local and international research institutes. Many professors from Korea and the US were discussing the different applications of the nanotechnology they had based their research on. One of these speakers, Professor Richard N. Zare, a chemistry professor at Stanford University, spoke about polymers that can identify certain viruses and bacteria after coming into contact with them. Once the bacteria are imprinted onto the polymer, the polymer has essentially become a mold for the bacteria, even after the bacteria are removed. This means that the polymers can identify the specific bacteria even without it being present. This is likely due to some chemical component on the surface of the imprinted shape that allows the polymer to “remember” the specific bacteria. (Dr. Zare has determined that it’s not the shape itself.) Scientists are able to “see” the bacteria using acoustic methods. When we asked whether the polymers could detect evolved forms of bacteria, Prof. Zare said that, “as long as the surface of the bacteria does not change, the polymers will always be able to detect that particular species.” Fascinated by his work, we visited him during a short coffee break, and asked what part of biochemistry excited him the most. He responded to this by telling us that he is “interested in many things” and that if he ever found something interesting or exciting, or something he believed he could "contribute to better the world," he would dig deeper into it. Professor Zare is renowned in the physical chemistry and nanotechnology communities and has received numerous honors and awards for his research. You can read about him more at https://web.stanford.edu/group/Zarelab/about.html.
Being able to speak directly with the people who are at the forefront of new discoveries and applications was a fantastic experience. It was meaningful, as the three of us got a peek into the numerous technologies, tools, and materials that will have a profound effect on all of our lives. In the process, we were able to think about what we each wanted to study in college and onward. From healthcare to personal and public services to entertainment, a new generation of technology is coming – in sizes smaller than ever.
Collaboratively researched and written by:
Sam Cho (Seoul Foreign High School)
Jacob Kim (Seoul Foreign High School)
Spencer Lee (Seoul Foreign High School)