KAIST Develops Core Technology to Synthesize a Helical Nanostructure

Professor Dong-Ki Yoon’s research team of the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology (GSNT) at KAIST has developed helical nanostructures using self-assembly processes. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America(PNAS) on the October 7th.

This technology enables the synthesis of various helical structures on a relatively large confined area. Its synthesis is often considered the most arduous for three dimensional structures. Formed from liquid crystal, the structure holds a regular helical structure within the confined space of 20 to 300 nanometers. Also, the distance between each pattern increased as the diameter of the nanostructure increased.

Liquid crystals have a unique property of responding sensitively to the surrounding electromagnetic field. The technology, in combination with the electromagnetic property of liquid crystal, is expected to foster the development of highly efficient optoelectronic devices.

Using this technology, it is possible to develop three dimensional patterning technology beyond the current semiconductor manufacturing technology which uses two dimensional photolithography processes. Three-dimensional semiconductor devices are expected to store hundred times more data than current devices. They will also lower costs by simplifying manufacturing processes.

The essence of this research, “self-assembly in confined space,” refers to controlling complex nanostructures, which can be synthesized from materials such as macromolecules, liquid crystal molecules, and biomolecules in relation to surrounding environments including the temperature, concentration, and pH.

The research team produced a confined space with a length of tens of nanometers by using a porous anodized aluminum membrane induced from an electrochemical reaction. They successfully synthesized independently controlled helical nanostructures by forming the helical structures from liquid crystal molecules within that space.

Professor Yoon said, “This research examines the physicochemical principle of controlling helical nanostructures.” He highlighted the significance of the research and commented, “The technology enables the control of complex nanostructures from organic molecules by using confined space and surface reforming.”

He added that, “When grafted with nanotechnology or information technology, this technology will spur new growth to liquid crystal-related industries such as the LCD.”

The research was led by two Ph.D. candidates, Hanim Kim and Sunhee Lee, under the guidance of Professor Yoon. Dr. Tae-Joo Shin of the Pohang Accelerator Laboratory, Professor Sang-Bok Lee of the University of Maryland, and Professor Noel Clark of the University of Colorado also participated.