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01/21/2020 HYU News > Academics > 이달의연구자

Title

[Excellent R&D] Finding the Key to Detailed Information of the Ecosystem

Professor Shin Kyung-hoon (Department of Marine Science and Convergence Engineering, ERICA Campus)

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How can we tell a drop of pure honey from sugar-mixed honey? How do we tell which of the pesticide is responsible for the corrupted soil? Or the correct place of origin of beef? All of these are possible by analyzing the ‘stable isotope ratio’ of the compound. Recently, ERICA Campus’s Institute of Ocena and Atmospheric Sciences successfully developed the nitrogen stable isotope analyses technology. It is the first in Korea, and one of the very few world-wide. Professor Shin Kyung-hoon (Department of Marine Science and Convergence Engineering, ERICA Campus) of the laboratory explained that there is a wide possibility of how the technology can be employed in various fields.
 

Professor Shin Kyung-hoon (Department of Marine Science and Convergence Engineering, ERICA Campus)  successfully developed the nitrogen stable isotope analyses technology.


An isotope of an element is an atom that has a different number of neutrons than the other normal atoms. For instance, almost all carbon has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, but about 1 percent of the carbon on Earth has 6 protons and 7 neutrons. Amongst them, stable isotope is a specific group of isotope that are not radioactive. The aforementioned 'stable isotope ratio' refers to the ratio of the atomic abundances of a specific stable isotopes within an element.

So what is the significance of developing the technology that analyzes this stable isotope ratio? According to Shin, the ratio for each atom is generally constant throughout every elements in Earth's biosphere. However, they show slight, but notable, differences between the kinds, and a subtler difference between individual entity. “It is these subtle differences that carry the valuable information,” said Shin. “Take ecology, for example. Although each species has its basic internal isotope ratio, depending on the environment, the exact ratio differs slightly for each organism. In other words, by analyzing the stable isotopes ratio, we can figure out the environment it lived in, such as habitat, food, and trophic position. Ultimately, it gives us a correct and detailed information about the ecosystem,” said Shin.

On the surface, what the technology can do is, it can also be applied in many other fields. In forensic science, it could be used to identify the used poison or the used weapon. It can also effectively place the place of origin of food products, and can even be used in archeology to find out what ancient people ate. “The stable isotope ratio analyses technique has endless possibilities of joint study, and a few of them are under way already. We have the machine set and are more than ready to cooperate. I hope more researchers of different fields come up with an interesting idea from their field, and use our machine to find out the answer,” said Shin.



Lim Ji-woo        il04131@hanyang.ac.kr

Photos by Lee Hyeon-seon

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