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POSTECH LabCumentary Professor Lee, In Su (Chemistry)

Center for Nanospace-confined
Chemical Reactions

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17/24

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Center for Nanospace-confined
Chemical Reactions

Professor Lee, In Su (Chemistry)

When magnets are placed in a properly-conditioned container, they automatically become entwined into a contorted mess. Those who see this phenomenon for the first time might think that magnets by nature simply get tangled this way. After closer observation, however, one may realize that these magnets not only pull but also push each other.

 

The Center for Nanospace-confined Chemical Reactions led by professor Lee, In Su at the Department of Chemistry, POSTECH, studies the chemical phenomena and reactions that occur inside nano-sized containers. Researchers use ‘silica’ which includes many identical components of glass to create nano-scale containers in various sizes. These containers are then filled with a number of different substances to examine their chemical properties or observe phase-specific chemical reactions, enabling researchers to discover entirely new phenomena that could have been otherwise completely overlooked.

 

Such chemical explorations in the microscopic world not only bring new light to the study of chemistry but also aid in the development of materials required in the areas of catalyst, energy and medical diagnostics. For example, a platinum catalyst with a novel structure serves to facilitate the electrolysis of water to improve the efficiency of generating hydrogen energy, and an orthogonal chemical catalyst can be engineered by injecting micro-sized nanoparticle containers into cells to induce artificial chemical reactions while not interfering with the proper function of other cells.

 

A recent research project aimed to develop manganese-based MRI contrast agents to be used to detect liver cancer cells and track down their progression. While Gd3+ ions which have been conventionally used as contrast agents are highly magnetic and thus significantly effective, they carry the risk of causing nephrogenic systemic fibrosis because of their toxicity, especially within the human body. The Center addressed this by turning to non-toxic manganese that shares similar chemical properties with Gd3+ ions: researchers placed manganese inside nanoparticle containers and manipulated them to interact with numerous water molecules to eventually improve its effectiveness as a contrast agent.

 

The Center for Nanospace-confined Chemical Reactions applies its nanospace-confined research methodology to a wide range of areas, and this enables members to delve into their own areas of interest, be it organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, electrochemistry, or cell experimentation while still sharing common interests and goals. From exploring and expanding methodologies to promoting their versatile application and adaptation for industrial ends, the Center leverages nanospaces as a tool to complete a big puzzle with each piece representing the distinctive personality of research members.

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