Do you know the meaning of ‘polymer’? It’s a compound word made up of ‘poly’ meaning many and ‘mer’ meaning segment. Even though many segments make a polymer they are invisible to the naked eye. However, with a little touch, we can make them do wonderful things. As technology develops, the needs for smaller chipsets and materials have grown more than ever. Accordingly polymer studies are spotlighted. Let’s meet Jeong Kwang-un, the professor of the Department of Polymer Nano Science & Technology who is making remarkable achievements in this field.
● Would you please introduce yourself by describing your career?
After my freshman year, I went to the army to do my service. At that time, I did a lot of dangerous activities and I had a chance to write a will, which made me think of my life’s motivation and much more. This made me realize that I should be the owner of my life and should live every day efficiently. I decided to study hard and get a degree in the USA and I would receive a Doctorate degree after hard work. Then, I had to ask myself, “What should I do next?” I wanted to become a national university Professor who leads students in studying in a similar environment as I had. In other words, I wanted to be a “Running Mate for those Students”. The thought of helping students to achieve their goals made me happy. So, I now have been working in the Department of Polymer Nano Science and Technology at Chonbuk National University since 2007 and have been helping students ever since.
● Your research team developed the “new organic luminescent material”. Can you tell us about applied smart paint and other examples that use this new material?
This research is interesting because if you apply this technology in real life, you can change a car’s color whenever you want. If you want your car to be red, just adjust the dial to red. So, the Smart Paint can change color anytime, somewhat like a chameleon. Also, this kind of smart paint can be applied to buildings and bridges. If a structure is bending dangerously because of external forces, the smart paint coat will change colors and people can escape in advance. The color changing is a simple yet effective way to alert people because it is very intuitive.
● In the aspect of new technology, is there any development regarding cell phones?
We are currently cooperating with LG Chem. to develop Anti reflection film. When the sunlight shines on the phone display screen, it is harder to see the screen than when looking at it in a shaded place. To solve this problem with current technology, phone screens become brighter but this isn’t enough for a clear screen and the battery consumption is high. We are also working together to develop a foldable and flexible display. Thanks to the foldable display, we can adjust the screen size according to our needs. To make a flexible display we have to change our conventional way of making displays and develop flexible films.
● What is the reason that your main research focus is the “light?”
The main reason is that these kinds of materials can be easily controlled by remote. The best thing about using light is that it can send signals without actually contacting the device. In the case of conventional electronics, to make it remote controlled we need mainboards, batteries and much more. However, for the new materials, because we use light as a controller, there is no need for complex electronics. An easy example that shows the benefit is that you could even control your car on the moon by using a special laser beam if you bluff a little. So, you don’t need to go there on your own two feet.
Also, these days I am doing research on a ‘Nano Machine’. Have you seen the iron man suit made out of nano materials in the recent movie, Avengers: Infinity War? Just like that, a Nano Machine can change in various shapes and colors by self-assembling at the molecular level. This technology will allow us to make machines that can change shape without us using hammers and lasers.
● Please share with us the special training method that you use with students.
In graduate school, every student has their own topic to research. Because of the uniqueness of each topic, students have their own unique problems. Because of the variety of problems, there is literally no one to give specific advice to those students. It’s like making a new cooking recipe, all by yourself. It’s hard, but if students don’t have the sense of ownership of their problems, they can’t develop their problem solving skills. So I tell students to do something no one has ever done before so that they can train themselves to solve problems. When students conquer problems by themselves and get a little bit of motivation from it, I am genuinely happy for them.
There is one more thing I would like to brag about! During the doctoral studies course, there is a program called ‘Global Ph.D. Fellowship’ hosted by the Ministry of Education. Our department has produced selected students four times in a row. I think our students learn from the chosen students how to be selected. This year again, we have a selected student for the Global Ph.D. Fellowship program.
● Do you have anything else to tell CBNU students?
I was also a national university student, but when I was an undergraduate I did feel a little bit daunted when talking about the major universities in Korea. However, when I went abroad, I studied with the best students all over the world and knew that university rankings were nothing to care about. I would actually rather say you have a bigger chance because you are at CBNU. People would say ‘even though you graduated from CBNU, you are good.’ So, before blaming your environment, become a man of ability. If you want to be a person like that, prepare and move ahead.
Smart paint, nanomachines, and foldable smartphones sound like Sci-Fi material, but they are actually near production stage for daily use thanks to the development of Nanotechnology. Because of the small size of polymers, there are many applications for these technological advances. Why not learn more about this magical material and stop by Professor Jeong Kwang-un’s office to talk about the future?