High efficiency bio-butanol production technology developed

KAIST and Korean Company cooperative research team has developed the technology that increases the productivity of bio-butanol to equal that of bio-ethanol and decreases the cost of production. Professor Lee Sang Yeop (Department of Biological-Chemical Engineering) collaborated with GS Caltex and BioFuelChem Ltd. to develop a bio-butanol production process using the system metabolism engineering method that increased the productivity and decreased the production cost.  Bio-butanol is being widely regarded as the environmentally friendly next generation energy source that surpasses bio-ethanol.

The energy density of bio-butanol is 29.9MJ (mega Joule) per Liter, 48% larger than bio-ethanol (19.6MJ) and comparable to gasoline (32MJ). Bio-butanol is advantageous in that it can be processed from inedible biomass and is therefore unrelated to food crises.

Especially because bio-butanol shows similar characteristics especially in its octane rating, enthalpy of vaporization, and air-fuel ratio, it can be used in a gasoline engine.

For full article see KAIST.

Hormone finding could lead to diabetes cure

Korean scientists have discovered the role of a hormone that could help develop medicines to treat and cure diabetes and obesity-associated diseases.

Dr. Lee Myung-sik of Samsung Medical Center, who is also a professor at Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, led a study into “mitokine” signals, which are sent by cells having trouble with their metabolism. They identified that the signal involved a hormone, encoded as the fibroblast growth factor 21, or FGF21. The hormone is induced by mitochondria, which generate energy for cells.

Yuan Zhang, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Department of Pharmacology, called FGF21 the “starvation hormone” in an Oct. 15 report, saying that it boosts the lifespan of laboratory mice and increases insulin sensitivity.

For full article see Korea Herald.

Government cuts budget for renewable energy sector 12 pct next year

The South Korean renewable energy industry, which has been going through the recession, is expected to experience more difficulty next year as the government cut budget for the industry.

The Ministry of Knowledge and Economy (MKE) cut 12 percent of the budget allocated to the renewable energy sector to 860 billion won ($800.75 million) from 977.8 billion won, according to the 2013 budget the MKE submitted to the National Assembly Friday. Of the overall cut, the budget for renewable energy supply expansion suffered the steepest reduction.

The government’s spending on projects aimed at boosting the supply of eco-friendly energy declined 20 percent from 134 billion won this year to 105.9 billion won next year, while the budget for expanding photovoltaic power supply plunged 53 percent to 26.1 billion won from 55 billion won.

For full article see Maeil Business.

Korea posts second-highest growth in R&D investment

Korea’s investment in research and development has grown an average of 9.6 percent since 2008, the world’s second-highest level after China, a government commission reported Thursday.

R&D investment during the period totaled 68 trillion won ($62.8 billion), which means an average of 9.6 percent growth per year between 2008 and 2012. The total is more than the target amount of 66.5 trillion won, the National Technology and Science Commission said in a report to President Lee Myung-bak. The growth rate is the second highest after China’s 22.3 percent averaged between 2008 and 2010.

Japan saw R&D investment rising an average 8.8 percent between 2008 and 2010; the United States 7.9 percent between 2007 and 2009; and Germany 1.8 percent between 2008 and 2010. France’s R&D investment contracted an average 2.1 percent between 2008 and 2010, the commission said.

For full article see Korea Times.

Power-free, wireless keyboard

Chung Sung-kwan, head of the future device team at the KAIST Institute for Information Technology Convergence, which operates under the KAIST Institute(Director Kim Sang-soo). Chung developed a “power-free, wireless keyboard,” which can operate without a power supply and a cord, and successfully transferred the technology to a company, drawing attention from people within and outside the research community.

The secret lies in RFID technology. Using mobile RFID tag technology, the new device allows the computer to recognize the pressing of keys.

Common keyboards contain some 80 to 110 keys. These keys are linked to circuits at the bottom, and whenever keys are pressed, the signs are displayed on the monitor, which is an output device. Both desktop computers and laptops operate through this mechanism.

The keys on the power-free, wireless keyboard are the same as those on normal keyboards in the way they are linked to circuits. However, the new keyboard’s individual keys, each measuring 2cm, each contain a built-in antenna that transmits data to the keyboard, and a RFID chip. The chip is about 2 mm long and 2mm wide.

For full story, see KISTI.

2020 road map for development of electric vehicles faces bumpy road

The nation’s ambitious goal to become one of the world’s top four electric-vehicle production powerhouses faces a bumpy road due to slower-than-expected market penetration.

Under the 2020 vision for green cars, unveiled in 2010, the government plans to replace 20 percent of cars on the road with EVs for Korea to take 10 percent of the global EV market. For this goal, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy have invested in infrastructure for EVs to boost demand for the vehicles.

Despite these efforts for the past two years, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, which controls the nation’s budget, recently cut the Ministry of Environment’s 2013 budget for EVs by more than 50 percent to 27.9 billion won ($26 million). “It was necessary to cut the EV-related budget next year due to slower-than-expected demand for EVs this year,” a ministry official said.

Even public organizations, which have led the creation of demand for EVs with support of the central government for the past year, have themselves been slow to adopt EVs. As of September this year, Seoul City uses 53 EVs, only 13.8 percent of this year’s target of 385 units.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Eco-friendly ships sail ahead

One solution for the drawn-out recession in the shipbuilding industry could be more environmentally-friendly ships, experts say. They are encouraging local shipbuilders to put forth more effort to develop fuel-efficient, “green” vessels.

From next year, the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) will be implemented to regulate gas-guzzling ships worldwide. The index indicates the amount of carbon dioxide emissions of a ship by number.

The International Maritime Organization has been discussing measures to slash carbon dioxide emissions exhausted by ships since 2008. It will impose even tighter rules from 2015, demanding a 10 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions every five years for every ship.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

Cancer can be checked with a drop of blood: ETRI

2012_12_etri_bloodThe state-run Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) announced Wednesday that it has developed a whole blood processing chip and bio-sensor array chip, which enable anyone check diseases or food toxins at an earlier stage.

The whole blood processing chip enables anyone to easily screen cancers within 30 seconds, as it separates even one drop of blood into blood cells and plasma.

Currently, blood cells are separated from blood plasma by using a centrifugal separator, but it requires complicate procedure over a long time with the participation of medical doctors.

For full article, see Korea Times.

Petroleum products ranked no. 1 among Korea’s major export items

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said on December 4 that Korea will break the US$1-trillion barrier in trade figures (sum of export and import figures) by the 8th. The item that contributed most was none other than petroleum products including gasoline, diesel, and lubricant, overtaking traditional major export items such as ships, semiconductors, and automobiles.
 
The amount of exports in petroleum products for the 11 months between January and November was $51.72 billion, accounting for 10.3 percent in total exports. It also exhibited the highest growth rate among the top-ten export items.
 
The total export figure for the year is forecast to be $555.2 billion, almost identical to that recorded in 2011. The top export items other than petroleum products for the 11-month period were semiconductors ($46.1 billion), general machinery ($44.0 billion), automobiles ($43.0 billion), petrochemical ($42.0 billion), steel products ($32.6 billion), and mobile communications ($19.8 billion).
 
For full article, see Korea Economic Daily.

Korea to invest 930 bln won in nano industry until 2020

Korea will invest 930 billion won ($858.7 million) until 2020 to boost the nano industry as part of its efforts to make the country one of the world’s top three players in the area, the government said Tuesday.

The envisioned investment consists of 650 billion won set aside by the central government for its budget and 280 billion won assigned by the private sector and municipal governments, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. The money will be spent on research and development activities in the nano industry, it added.

In addition to the investment plan, the ministry said that it aims to become the world’s third largest country in terms of global market share in the nano industry. To that end, the government will push to achieve $250 billion in exports of nano products or about 10 percent of the global market until 2020.

For full article, see Korea Herald.