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UT helps establish international research collaboration with Air Force Institute of Technology

The University of Toledo is part of a groundbreaking international research collaboration with the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and Kwangwoon University in South Korea.

President Lloyd Jacobs, right, shook hands with Dr. Dong-Shik Kim, UT associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering, after signing a cooperative research and development agreement with Kwangwoon University in South Korea and the Air Force Institute of Technology. Also on hand for the ceremony were Dr. Do-Young Yoon, professor of chemical engineering at Kwangwoon University, left, and Dr. James Trempe, UT vice president for research.

President Lloyd Jacobs, right, shook hands with Dr. Do-Young Yoon, professor of chemical engineering at Kwangwoon University, after signing a cooperative research and development agreement with Kwangwoon University in South Korea and the Air Force Institute of Technology. Also on hand for the ceremony were Dr. Dong-Shik Kim, UT associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering, left, and Dr. James Trempe, UT vice president for research.

The three institutions are working together to build an international research and education program on nano-sensors and nano-materials.

“We are happy to be an agent that helps build this relationship between AFIT and Kwangwoon University and also the relationship between AFIT and The University of Toledo,” said Dr. Dong-Shik Kim, UT associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering. “To me, it’s a wonderful combination of different expertise to make more effective nano-sensors and more effective nano-materials that go into sensors. The potential is great, and the application is great as well.”

Kim started the foundation for the collaboration when he was at the Air Force Institute of Technology as a summer faculty research fellow at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The cooperative research and development agreement is the first the AFIT has signed with a foreign institution. The agreement has a two-year lifespan initially, but AFIT officials hope it will continue indefinitely.

The program will focus on a research and learning center called the Nano-STAR (Nano-Sensor Technology Advancement and Research) Center that will be established at Kwangwoon University in Seoul, South Korea.

Nano-sensors can be used for many things, such as detecting contaminants in the environment. Much of this research collaboration will focus on detecting nerve agents, which are chemicals that disrupt the way nerves and organs communicate, Kim said.

The military currently uses a large machine to detect nerve agents in the field; it takes up to two hours to operate the equipment and must be analyzed by a trained specialist. A nano-scale device would be a smaller and faster hand-held version that would be able to detect very low concentrations of chemical agents, Kim said.

The research also has medical capabilities, he said, such as the ability to use nano-sensors to detect proteins in the blood to diagnose diabetes, which is being investigated by Kim and Dr. Brent Cameron, UT associate professor of bioengineering.

Kim’s contribution to the research is to make the bio-sensor matrix that is the primary component of the detection device.

The agreement already has led to a collaborative research article, “Using Nanotechnology to Detect Nerve Agents,” which was published in the summer edition of Air and Space Power Journal.

“I think it’s good for the Air Force, the Department of Defense and certainly for our surroundings here at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said Dr. Marlin Thomas, dean in AFIT’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management. “All of us work in the area of sensors across a number of dimensions at AFIT.”

“It is my honor to sign this cooperative research and development agreement,” said Dr. Do-Young Yoon, a chemical engineering professor at Kwangwoon University. “It’s a very good chance to finesse our research and our program.”