[Researcher of the Month] Blue Ocean of Materials Science
Kim Ki-hyun (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
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Conspicuous or not, our surroundings play a crucial role in navigating our health, holding accountability for small and big degenerations for mankind’s physical wellbeing. Among all, two indispensable elements in our life, air and water, have slow and accumulative effect on the health of the population. Professor Kim Ki-hyun (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), whose studies focus on environmental pollution, delineated the means of applying advanced materials in his review paper “Carbon nanotubes: a novel material for multifaceted applications in human healthcare.”
Carbon nanotubes in biotechnology
As modern material technology has been advancing considerably, its application seems ever-expanding in diverse fields, with nanomaterials as the convenient and indispensable companion. Based on a research paper conducted by other scholars, Kim wrote another, centralizing on the uses of carbon nanotubes (CNT), an emerging nanomaterial that is seeing the light in the biomedical and environmental fields. Its application is versatile: drug delivery, sensing, water purification, composite materials, and bone scaffolds. More specifically, CNTs could be used to alleviate myocardial infarction by enlarging clogged blood vessels, expediting drug delivery, and organizing bone structures in needed parts.
Despite all the medical benefits, advanced materials including CNT also have the potential to bring adverse effects. As alien substances could disturb immune or antibody responses, the body functions to react against them. Especially, in case of new materials, unprecedented resistance could occur, and thus their potential impacts must be taken into consideration through attentive examination for possible toxicity. Nonetheless, as long as the criteria are met, CNT and other materials could spark revolutionary breakthroughs that would change the future of mankind.
“I think that endless developments are yet to come in the field of materials science to help other research fields like environment and human health flourish. Better materials in terms of cost efficiency and functional effectiveness would be improved while there is yet no limits to such developments. Materials science and nanomaterials would not only be fruitful in biomedical fields but also environmentally,” commented Kim. His interest in new materials are extended toward environmental progress, starting with the sensing of pollutants and purifying polluted medium.
The blue ocean
Materials science could often be referred to as the 'blue ocean' since there are more to be discovered than what has been excavated so far. On top of this, collaboration with environmental issues is not conventional. Kim is involved in research for integrated environmental monitoring technology, digitizing and managing air, water, and soil pollution. He is looking forward to fuse newly unveiled materials in his research, hoping to bring a constructive result to lay a bridge between materials science and environmental engineering.
To set an example, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) could be used to mitigate environment pollution: volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the air spawns odor while propagating carcinogens if transferred into the human body through the respiratory system. As the material for sensing or removing such hazardous pollutants, MOFs are regarded as one of the highly promising solutions. What is to be underscored here is the infinite possibility of combination of the materials, which are not only capable of being used alone but also of being employed in cooperation with other materials.
Jeon Chae-yun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Choi Min-ju
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