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By Fred MillerU of A System Division of Agriculture@AgNews479
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Really tiny things are a big deal to Jin-Woo Kim. For his work
in nanotechnology, he has been named the 2019 Arkansas Biosciences Institute Established
Investigator of the Year.
Kim, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering for the University of
Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas College of
Engineering, has spent years developing methods for turning nanoparticles into practical
tools for medical, agricultural and manufacturing uses.
Nanoparticles are between 1 and 100 nanometers long, a nanometer being equal to one
billionth of a meter.
Kim’s research, funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National
Institute of Health, combines multiple nanoscale materials into single, multifunctional
structures with defined physical, chemical or biological characteristics that hold
promise for advanced materials and devices. Engineering the shape, size and material
compositions influences the useful properties of those materials.
Such materials offer valuable applications for biosensing, biosecurity or nanomedicine,
as well as advanced uses in optoelectronics and nanophotonics, Kim said.
“The potential applications of these technologies is wide open,” Kim said.
To produce these materials, Kim has been developing nano-building-block technology
to guide self-assembly of nanoparticles into specific shapes for specific purposes.
He calls it nBlock technology, and it induces nanoparticles to arrange themselves
into designed structures.
Now, he is working to expand nBlock technology into more general techniques that can
be applied to many different manufacturing designs. He aims to develop a nanotoolbox
of assembly methods that are not limited to a single, specific material, but that
can be used to produce an unlimited number of different materials.
One of the challenges, Kim said, is scaling up production for manufacturing bulk materials.
Self-assembly is a powerful strategy, he said, but the accurate, scalable and high-rate
assembly of nanoparticles into specifically designed shapes and sizes is difficult
“Nanotoolbox technology addresses the urgent need for functional, reliable and scalable
techniques to fabricate customizable nanostructures for a wide range of uses,” Kim
In another project, funded by NSF’s Center for Advanced Surface Engineering, Kim is
developing efficient and sustainable technologies to produce cellulosic nanomaterials
from woody biomass.
The raw material is essentially waste from timber industries, Kim said. “A report
from the Department of Energy indicates that U.S. forestry operations generate 97
million dry tons of waste annually,” he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Arkansas produces 4 million dry tons
of waste each year.
“If that abundant and cheap raw material can be sustainably and economically converted
into value-added products,” Kim said, “it could provide a significant boost to the
To investigate the potential of waste biomass for nanomaterial uses, Kim is investigating
the impact of genetic and environmental influences on the quantity and quality of
nanocellulose. These factors can help identify the most suitable cellulose resources
in Arkansas for nanoparticle production, he said.
Kim is combining multiple production processes to identify the most efficient and
sustainable methods to fabricate nanocellulose.
In his study of manufacturing processes, Kim said he is targeting both low-cost, high-volume
and high-cost, low-volume markets by developing processes with options to synthesize
cellulose nanomaterials to different degrees of purity.
Materials with high purity are costly to produce and are suitable for medical or electronic
industries. Such products might include drug delivery systems or medical diagnosis
agents, smart fabrics, sensing or imaging nanomaterials and other high-end technical
Nanomaterials produced with lower purity at lower cost are suitable for such products
as packing materials, filters, some construction materials, microbeads and other uses
where high purity is not required.
“USDA estimates that the market size of nanocellulose-enabled products will reach
35 million metric tons per year by 2050,” Kim said.
“Developing a viable way to fabricate value-added products from cellulosic nanomaterials
could propel Arkansas into a new era of forest bio-based production industries,” Kim
said. “There’s high potential to advance the state’s manufacturing, agriculture, forestry
and healthcare industries.”
To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural
Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and Instagram at ArkAgResearch.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Fred MillerU of A System Division of AgricultureArkansas Agricultural Experiment Station(479) firstname.lastname@example.org