APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program Director Is Selected as a Highly Cited Researcher (HCR) in the Three Fields: Environment and Ecology, Engineering, and Biology and Biochemistry in 2022
November 2, 2022more
APRU Global Sustainability: Waste & The City Seminar Course Helps Graduate Students Shape Green Leadership Concepts
APRU successfully concluded its APRU Global Sustainability: Waste & The City seminar course, providing APRU graduate students an opportunity to gain insights how industry and academic leaders from around the world work with key stakeholders in implementing sustainability in their organizations. Delivered via videoconferencing in February-May in a seminar-lecture/ student peer-to-peer session mix, the course investigated a range of topics related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG), Environmental, Social, Corporate Governance (ESG), the linear/circular economy, and urban development. The course was a collaboration between Nanyang Technological University Singapore; the APRU Sustainable Cities & Landscapes Program (led by University of Oregon); and the APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program (led by Korea University). Its format has been closely aligned with the APRU Global Health Distance Education Courses that have been running very successfully for over five years. “As shared in the class, we know that more people want businesses to take concrete actions to address climate change, with the rise of eco-awakening starting to push leaders and organizations to move rapidly toward environmentally sustainable business outcomes,” said Amit Midha, Dell Technologies’s President Asia Pacific, one of the industry expert speakers participating in the course. “Indeed, sustainability and the impact it must have for generations to come is a topic I get often asked about by my children,” he added. Other industry expert speakers were Kirsty Salmon, Vice President Advanced Bio and Physical Sciences for Low Carbon Energy at BP; Clint Navales, P&G’s VP Communications Asia Pacific; and Seung Jin Kim, Project Sourcing and Development Lead of Alliance to End Plastic Waste. “It will take a multi-stakeholder approach to address global challenges such as the circular economy,” said Salmon. She shared that “bp’s ambition is to become a net zero energy company by 2050 or sooner, and to help the world to do the same. This can only happen by working with current and future stakeholders, suppliers, consumers and policy-makers to make this happen”. Subject experts from within APRU included David Wardle, NTU Professor and Co-Chair APRU Sustainable Waste Management; Yekang Ko, University of Oregon Professor and Director of the APRU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Program; and Yong Sik OK, Korea University Professor and Director of the APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program. Student feedback about the course was very good specifically highlighting the valuable learning experience it offers participants. Academic lead for the development and implementation of the course was provided by Sierin Lim, Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Global Partnerships at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Lim stressed the importance of students across all disciplines gaining green knowledge through active discussions as part of their studies. “Our course aims to equip students with not only the knowledge on sustainability but also the thinking process and implementation in the industry. Offering this course within an international platform such as that on the APRU provides the students with the opportunity to hone their analytical and intercultural communication skills. We are looking forward to develop the course together with our partner universities for the next cohort to bring in new perspectives on sustainability,” Lim said. Find out the previous course description and speakers here. Contact the APRU Program Team ([email protected]) if you are interested to bring your students to the next iteration of the course.
May 20, 2022more
APRU on AAAS EurekAlert!: Sustainability in Times of COVID-19: Converting Face Masks into Valuable Fuel
Original AAAS Eurekalert! Surgical masks are being used in virtually all countries of the world as the first line of defense against COVID-19. Shortly after the pandemic started, the demand for disposable masks skyrocketed to unprecedented levels; by June 2020, China alone was producing about 200 million masks per day! But the enormous amount of bulk waste constituted by these masks—coupled with staff shortages in waste management systems due to the pandemic—greatly exacerbated the threat that these plastic products pose to both human health and the environment. Can discarded masks be turned into something useful to keep them away from incinerators, landfill, and our soils and oceans? The answer is a definite yes, as demonstrated by a team of researchers in a recent study published in Bioresource Technology (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biortech.2021.126582), who analyzed the possibility of converting surgical masks into value-added chemicals through a thermal decomposition process called ‘pyrolysis.’ This international team of scientists was led by Professor Yong Sik Ok and Dr. Xiangzhou Yuan of Korea University, South Korea, who received great support from Professor Xun Hu of the University of Jinan and Professor Xiaonan Wang of the National University of Singapore and Tsinghua University. While the pyrolysis of polypropylene—the main component of surgical masks—has already been studied in detail, masks usually contain other fillers that could affect their pyrolysis behavior. Thus, the research team had to carefully analyze how the pyrolysis conditions affected the obtained products, which came in gaseous, liquid, and solid forms. To this end, they ran multiple experiments at different pyrolysis temperatures and with different heating rates, capturing all the outputs and subjecting them to thorough characterization. In particular, one set of pyrolysis conditions yielded a carbon-rich and oxygen-deficient liquid oil as the main product. Further analyses revealed that this oil had a high heating value of 43.5 MJ/kg, which is only slightly lower than that of diesel fuel and gasoline. In other words, the results showed that surgical masks can be converted into a burnable fuel that can in turn be used, for example, to generate electricity. The story does not end there, however, being able to convert waste into something useful doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. It is important to first assess the combined environmental impact of all the processes involved and compare it with that of current practices before thinking of implementing them. Therefore, the researchers conducted a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of their proposed methodology to better understand its pros and cons. The LCA is an approach that is widely to quantify the environmental impacts associated with the entire life cycle of a product; in this case, the discarded masks marked the beginning of the cycle while the electricity generated using the obtained fuel marked its end. The results of the LCA were promising, indicating that the conversion of waste masks into electricity through pyrolysis offered better performance than most conventional waste management approaches on several fronts, including less CO2 emissions, less terrestrial ecotoxicity, and less phosphorous emissions. “We verified that upcycling post-consumer surgical masks into value-added energy products represents a sustainable and promising route with notable environmental benefits,” highlights Dr. Yuan. Overall, the findings of this study indicate that pyrolysis is an attractive option to solve the problems posed by discarded surgical waste masks, paving the way to sustainable waste management, while generating energy and reducing our environmental impact. “Understanding new ways to turn surgical masks into value-added energy products will help us mitigate plastic pollution and achieve sustainable waste-to-energy conversion in the future,” concludes Prof. Ok, “The novel upcycling route proposed in our study could help us protect Earth’s ecosystems and reach several of the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.” Let us hope this idea is further tested and ultimately implemented so that we can reduce our burden on the environment.
March 8, 2022more
Ideas from the interface between habitats
More collaborative approaches are emerging to prevent the loss of biodiversity. Original post in Nature. Among today’s environmental challenges, the accelerating loss of biodiversity is a critical issue, threatening human survival, speakers at a conference in Seoul, South Korea have warned. Now is the time, they said, for all stakeholders to be united in seeking solutions for restoring biodiversity, so humans can coexist with other species. The 2021 P4G Seoul Summit Green Future Week Session on Biodiversity, jointly organized by South Korea’s Ministry of Environment and the National Institute of Biological Resources (NIBR), was held online on 27 May 2021. ‘Hope for the Future, Biodiversity Restoration,’ was aimed at deepening biodiversity understanding and raising awareness of behaviour change. While some presenters made the link between biodiversity loss and the increasing emergence of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, others painted a picture of a brighter future by introducing successful examples of biodiversity restoration. There were many worrying facts and figures. For example, according to Dolors Armenteras, a geographer and biodiversity conservation professor at the National University of Colombia, in the Amazon, where 50% of the Earth’s tropical forests are located, more than 1.1 million square kilometres of land has been cleared since 1985. Such loss means the planet is losing its capacity to regulate atmospheric gas ratios which disrupts the water cycle, causing temperature rises, more flooding, droughts and associated natural disasters. “All these are a very problematic vicious cycle,” said Armenteras. In a keynote speech, Ban Ki-moon, a former United Nations secretary-general, said: “In spite of enhanced actions on climate change, little progress has been made on biological diversity.” He pointed out that “COVID-19 is a clear sign of what humanity could face as a result of biodiversity loss and ecological destruction.” In his view, the world urgently needs to come up with nature-based solutions, addressing climate change and biodiversity degradation in an integrated manner. Nature-based solutions is a concept created and developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global environment and policy network. It includes “actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural and modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, to provide human wellbeing and biodiversity benefits.” Yoon Jongsoo, president of IUCN National Committee of South Korea, said nature-based solutions are not yet reflected in many government policies because of the lack of political motivation. “We need to continue to urge our political leaders to incorporate a biodiversity agenda as well as a climate-change agenda in all major national policies in all sectors,” he said. The NIBR of the Ministry of Environment of South Korea has been supporting national biodiversity conservation programmes since its establishment in 2007, and taking the lead in promoting the sustainable use of biodiversity in collaboration with industry, academia and other stakeholders at home and abroad. In order to make nature-based solutions policy, Bae Yeon Jae, president of the NIBR, emphasized the importance of raising the public’s awareness of the value of biodiversity. In several video messages, talks and two sets of discussions, distinguished researchers, representatives of international organizations and top policymakers shared their insights on efforts to reach UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Gretchen C. Daily, an expert in policy, finance, and management of natural resources at Stanford University, introduced InVEST, a free, open-source software, developed with more than 1,000 scientists, to guide the investment in, and conservation of, Earth’s natural capital. It has led to successful funding agreements in Colombia, for example, between downstream and upstream users of drinking water. “We need much more leadership from the financial sector,” she said. Meanwhile, as Nature co-hosted the second part of the session, Magdalena Skipper, its editor-in-chief, spoke of the importance of science to tackle global crises. “Perhaps more than ever before, now is the time for science to be transparent for the knowledge to be shared equitably so that all may benefit, but also importantly all who have contributed receive appropriate credit,” she said. Zoonoses Given the global pandemic, much attention was paid to emergent infectious diseases. Choe Jae-chun, a biologist at Ewha Womans University, introduced a recent report that showed climate change has driven tropical bat species to move into southern China where SARS-CoV-2 may have arisen. He also said human encroachment into wild habitats is creating more opportunity for viruses and bacteria to move into humans and domestic animals. “We will probably go through this kind of pandemic again and again,” he said, unless humans and domestic animals reduce their numbers tremendously or increase the area of protected forests or ecosystems, to enable animal species to live undisturbed. Choe’s argument was backed by Kate Jones, an ecologist at University College London, who outlined the leap pathogens make from animals to humans. Jones and colleagues reviewed a large number of studies across the world, and found that humans are “changing the ecosystem of species which have a higher probability of hosting and possibly transmitting pathogens into human populations”. A whole systems approach is needed because environmental changes act on every single part of the ecosystem, Jones says. “Managing the ecosystem creates the solutions to our societal problems.”
September 27, 2021more
APRU on World Economic Forum: Universities can be 'living labs' for sustainability
Original post in World Economic Forum Cross-disciplinary research in universities functioning as ‘living labs’ can produce more effective sustainability solutions. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has launched around 30 sustainability-related projects. It also aims to be a multistakeholder hub with local, national and global impact. The massive social and economic disruptions caused by the recent pandemic should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who finds a false sense of security in stability and predictability. The pandemic highlighted that in the 21st century, change happens at unprecedented speed, is often unpredictable, and can be fundamentally transformative. This new normal is placing increasing pressure on higher education institutions to accelerate discovery and innovation in the interests of society, especially in the global mission of building a sustainable future. Like many of our fellow universities around the world, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) embraces sustainability as an integral part of our strategic development plan. This starts with the recognition that the principles embedded in sustainability thinking – creating the conditions for people to thrive, focusing on long-term value instead of short-term gains, and living within our planetary boundaries while appreciating the varied stages of development of different regions – are the fundamental touchstones that allow us to measure progress in terms of positive global impact. These principles influence hard sciences, engineering, business and policy development, as seen in our leadership of an international team identifying how China can adjust its overall energy mix strategy in order to reach a carbon peak around 2030, a target for the Paris Agreement. Most universities now recognize that training students to be prepared for 21st-century challenges means transitioning away from traditional content-based instruction, and embracing active experiential learning where students gain skills to help them solve the kinds of challenges they will encounter during their careers. A sustainability roadmap is essential: Skills like life-cycle analyses, systems thinking and scenario-planning are cross-disciplinary competencies rooted in sustainability thinking. In 2019, the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) launched a Campus as a Living Lab collaborative to share ideas and case studies as a way to facilitate hands-on sustainability training and skill-building. In the same vein, HKUST launched the Sustainable Smart Campus as a Living Lab initiative in 2018. The concept is simple: We need smart technologies to address sustainability problems, and we need to develop and encourage the right mindset to set the guardrails to create them. This approach has resulted in the launch of 30 or so university-funded projects, including the installation of indoor air-quality sensors to improve well-being, AI-driven tracking systems for inventorying tree and bird species, self-cleaning multipurpose nano-coatings to improve photovoltaic panel efficiencies, autonomous greywater treatment processes that streamline water recycling, and a digital twin of all campus buildings for a digitized platform for streamlined operations. The goals of such projects are two-fold: to move innovation out of research labs to the campus as a testing ground, and to assess the scalability of these ideas from campus to our city and beyond. For students, the projects provide a clear demonstration how to combine innovation with a sustainability mindset. COVID spotlighted our great challenges in view of disparate states of different regions regarding wealth, development, access and technology. We take this to mean that our educational efforts cannot support only HK and the Greater Bay Area, but also other less developed regions in the world. This is an important mission of the university; to transform research into real solutions, and to educate future solution-providers. Universities can act as strong convening forces that connect business, industry, government and entrepreneurs to address challenges collaboratively. We do this by working with local authorities on formulating science-based policies for reducing roadside and ship emissions to improve Hong Kong’s air quality, providing evidence for developing strategies, and being a trusted resource for policy-makers developing our citywide target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Our contributions to government regulations on pollution controls for ocean-going vessels led to wider influence on similar regional regulations for China’s coastal ports, benefitting 20 million people. These collaborations have the potential to improve lives irrespective of wealth and economic status, and showcase what is possible when using sustainability principles as a lodestar. As institutions where reflection on society takes place, it is the responsibility of universities to empower our students with a deeper awareness of how they can help shape this rapidly changing landscape. Instead of being passive observers, universities can stimulate students to become “activist consumers”, recognizing the power of their consumption patterns to drive markets towards more positive social and environmental outcomes. In collaboration with the seven other publicly funded universities in Hong Kong, we are facilitating an ambitious new initiative called the Sustainable Consumer Program, aiming to engage over 100,000 students to adopt responsible consumption patterns in food, energy, water and other consumables. Similarly, joint programmes developed in partnership with the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) and Asian Universities Alliance (AUA) aim to nurture responsible global citizens with an aspiration to safeguard and advance the welfare of all. From food upcycling to urban beekeeping, we encourage our members as change-makers and enablers. This recent pandemic has made it clear how global health hazards impact everyone and can literally bring our global community to a standstill. No country, no society and no one is exempted from these impacts. Similarly, the grand challenges of climate change also force us to focus on the availability of and access to resources, wealth distributions, and equity between regions and societies. Universities are at their best when they engage stakeholders across the spectrum for collaboration and partnership, empower and enable future leaders, and foster novel ideas, innovations and practices. Sustainability is more than a priority for universities; it is a responsibility, a commitment and a key to the betterment of mankind.
July 20, 2021more
APRU on Associated Press: APRU partners with United Nations ESCAP on The Asia Pacific Mayors Academy to Empower Mayors as Regional Leaders for Sustainability with Training Tailored to Unique Urban Challenges for a More Resilient Future
Original post in Associated Press. Co-organised with UN-Habitat, UCLG ASPAC, UNU-IAS, and IGES, the Academy helps regional city mayors to lead inclusive and sustainable future cities development and navigate challenging times in light of COVID-19 Held from November 2020 through May 2021, the second cohort of The Asia Pacific Mayors Academy recently concluded with a final module that saw 16 mayors participate from Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. For this capstone sixth module, the Academy focused on exploring future pathways to financing sustainable urban projects. Organised by six collaborating partners, The Asia Pacific Mayors Academy was launched in 2019 by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific (UCLG ASPAC) in cooperation with the United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and APRU (the Association of Pacific Rim Universities). Under the expertise of a faculty including regional experts from the APRU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Program, the Academy engages newly elected or appointed city mayors in Asia-Pacific to increase their understanding and application of sustainable urban development tools, resources and technical solutions. Together, this multi-stakeholder network of local leaders explores scenarios with specific challenges as well as relevant case studies to facilitate plans for sustainable solutions in their communities. For example, in the sixth module, the Academy discussed leveraging urban land value, co-creating private sector innovation, and promoting polluter-pay solutions to create long-term value for citizens, businesses, and the environment. Chris Tremewan, Secretary General of APRU, “APRU university experts work with city leaders and multilateral organizations to strengthen sustainable city development and to develop concrete plans for urban solutions. We are honoured to be one of the partners of the Academy. These specialised training sessions and knowledge exchanges have been invaluable during COVID-19 as we collectively respond to the crisis. We need to do everything we can to put cities on the path to recovery.” Stefanos Fotiou, Director, Environment and Development Division, ESCAP, “By drawing on multi-disciplinary members from across the Academy’s network, this unique and inclusive initiative supports mayors and the critical role their cities can play in realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Paris Climate Agreement. Starting local is essential to sustainability progress across the region, and it begins by addressing urban problems with smart sustainable solutions.” The Academy offers a robust curriculum including modules on Cities 2030 – Designing, Planning and Managing Sustainable Urban Development and COVID-19 Response and Recovery in hopes to see strengthened regional cooperation and mayors applying learnings to generate positive outcomes in Asia Pacific cities. To find out more: https://www.asiapacificmayorsacademy.org/call-for-expressions-of-interest
June 24, 2021more
ASPIRE Science Prize Spotlights Diverse Knowledge for a Sustainable Future
Issued by the APEC Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation The 2021 APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education or known as ASPIRE is now accepting nominations. The prize features influential work by young scientists from among the 21 APEC member economies. New Zealand, the host economy for APEC 2021, has chosen ‘Diverse Knowledge for a Sustainable Future’ for this year’s theme. It is aimed at focusing on researcher insights from Indigenous and ethnic minority cultures and communities to help inform new frontiers in science, technology and innovation. “In an era of rapid global change, a robust science and research enterprise is critical to advance disruptive and transformative technologies, providing the evidence base to make informed decisions that balance risks and rewards, and advance our understanding and ability to address global challenges like COVID-19,” said Daniel Dufour, Chair of the APEC Policy Partnership on Science, Technology, and Innovation, which administers the annual prize. “Global issues, such as pandemics and climate change, have further highlighted the importance of leveraging diverse knowledge and perspectives to bolster science, technology and innovation, and create better solutions for a greener, safer and more inclusive future.” “The selected theme explores interactions between traditional and contemporary approaches to knowledge and science, as well as applications such as better management of natural resources, healthcare and agricultural systems,” said Professor Juliet Gerrard, Chief Science Advisor for New Zealand. “This will open up much needed new holistic and inclusive approaches for economies to meet the challenges of the future.” In its 11th year, the ASPIRE prize promoted scientific success by providing opportunity for the young and bright scientists among the APEC member economies to showcase their hard work, specialty and global contribution. Each APEC economy may nominate one individual to represent them in this year’s competition. The nominee must be from the region and under 40 years of age. The impact of their work will be judged on their excellence in research and cross-border collaboration with peers from other APEC economies. Relevant academic disciplines include biology, chemistry, environmental science and physics, among others. The winning entry will receive a cash prize of USD25,000 by Wiley and Elsevier, distinguished publishers of scholarly scientific knowledge. The prize will be awarded at a virtual ceremony hosted by New Zealand in August 2021. “The future of science depends on a robust and diverse set of minds drawn from all corners of society,” said Youngsuk “Y.S.” Chi, Chairman of Elsevier. “These young scientists are paving the way for a brighter and more sustainable future. Not only are they broadening the borders of science, research and healthcare with their discoveries, but they are giving Indigenous and ethnic minority cultures the recognition they deserve.” “Over this past year, we have learned that diverse and inclusive knowledge systems lead to more effective and agile global research,” said Judy Verses, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Wiley Research. “We look forward to spotlighting the amazing work of young scientists across the region—they are our future.” For information on the previous year’s ASPIRE prize, please visit this link. For application information and questions, please visit this link. For further details, please contact: Masyitha Baziad +65 9751 2146 at [email protected] Michael Chapnick +65 9647 4847 at [email protected]
March 23, 2021more
APRU on Nature: A Private University with a Global Outlook
Original post in Nature. Korea University is a prestigious academic institution with a focus on creativity, innovation, and excellence that is helping to drive positive change. A global centre of excellence for international collaboration and multi-disciplinary research, Korea University has been ranked the top private university in Asia for the fourth consecutive year, on the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world rankings list. State-of-the-art research facilities and a track record of innovative research from world-renowned experts (seven of whom are 2019 Global Highly Cited Researchers) have placed Korea University in the top global 100 universities assessed by QS. Research conducted at the university is helping to tackle some of the major challenges facing the world, such as climate change, environmental degradation, and chronic disease. The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that address issues such as inequality, climate change, and economic growth. Achieving these goals in a sustainable manner for both people and the planet poses significant technical and engineering obstacles. Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals Korea University’s global research director, Yong Sik Ok, leader of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) Sustainable Waste Management programme, is chairing a conference series on engineering sustainable development, organized by The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, together with William Mitch (the programme co-leader), a professor at Stanford University. Academic researchers, industrial practitioners, and government departments, will gather to discuss the development of integrated solutions to realize the UN’s 17 SDGs. Participants will also work on an efficient sustainable management agenda for biological waste and remediation of soil, water and air in the local context. “We will deliberate on state-of-the-art treatment technologies, advanced management strategies, and political issues pertaining to recycling and recovery of waste. It’s a timely opportunity for knowledge exchange among professionals from all over the world, and will actively feed into ongoing policy discourse,” says Ok. In 2019, Ok was the first South Korean to be selected as a highly cited researcher (HCR) in the field of environment and ecology by the Web of Science’s HCR index, with 60 highly cited papers and hot papers. He is working at the vanguard of global efforts to develop sustainable waste management strategies and technologies to address the rising crisis in electronic and plastic waste, and pollution of soil and air with particulate matter. “Waste management on the land and the seas has become a major national, regional, and global challenge,” says Ok. “We need to develop better strategies for more effectively managing our waste. We must also seek to derive value from the waste we generate through, for example, conversion to energy and value-added products such as biochar.” By bringing together international experts, policymakers, and local communities, Ok believes the APRU Sustainable Waste Management programme and the conference series on engineering sustainable development will “play a vital role in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” Ok will host the first Nature conference among South Korean universities in Seoul in 2021 on the theme of waste management and valorization for a sustainable future. Clean energy In efforts to tackle climate change, scientists from Korea University are also creating the next generation of solar cells and helping the world transition to more efficient and cleaner renewable energy technologies. “Imagine a solar panel as thin as a piece of paper that can be used on windows, vehicles, and other irregularly shaped surfaces,” says Jun Hong Noh, associate professor in Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at Korea University. Noh’s research has been focussed on developing solar cells made from halides with a perovskite crystalline structure. Perovskite solar cells are lighter, cheaper, and easier to produce than conventional silicon-based cells, and can be made into flexible devices. “The main focus of my work has been to improve the efficiency of perovskite solar cells, as this is the most important factor in the commercialization of solar cell technologies,” explains Noh. Rapid increases in their efficiency compared with conventional single-crystal silicon solar cells over the past several years has led to increased interest and investment in research into perovskite-based solar cell technologies. Noh’s pioneering work has led to the development of halide perovskite solar cells, which have higher energy conversion efficiencies than conventional thin-film-type cells made from semiconductor materials, such as cadmium telluride. The superior performance of Noh’s halide perovskite cells comes from their unique combination of structural and optoelectronic properties, which include a high degree of crystalline order, a long carrier lifetime, and a high optical absorption coefficient. In 2020, Noh and his team achieved a halide perovskite solar cell with a certified efficiency of 25.2%. The results are yet to be published, but it is the most recent world record as measured by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “Thin-film halide perovskite solar cells have unique characteristics that make them ideal for photovoltaics,” explains Noh. “So, our next goal is to exploit these characteristics to create solar cells with efficiencies of more than 30%, which is close to the theoretical limit for a single-junction solar cell.” Improving human health Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common heart rhythm disorders, and can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other ailments. With tens of millions suffering from the condition globally, it is a major public health concern. Young-Hoon Kim, vice president, professor and executive director of the Cardiovascular Center at Korea University Anam Hospital, has spent more than 30 years researching atrial fibrillation and his pioneering work has led to improved diagnoses and treatments. “People suffering from heart conditions like atrial fibrillation often require very dramatic and timely interventions,” says Kim. “Therefore, it is paramount that clinicians make the right choices when prescribing treatments or therapies.” In 1988, Kim performed Korea’s first catheter ablation on a patient with atrial fibrillation. Since then, he has carried out more than 10,000 procedures on people suffering from complex tachyarrhythmias, a type of atrial fibrillation characterized by a very rapid irregular heartbeat. “The successful treatment of atrial fibrillation is dependent on how well we understand the mechanisms of the heart and how it behaves in people with the condition,” explains Kim. “Our work has led to a better understanding of the underlying causes of the condition, and on the development of more effective catheter ablation techniques for patients with persistent atrial fibrillation.” Kim is now collaborating with leading experts from around the world to develop a powerful new 3D imaging technique that could lead to better outcomes, particularly for patients suffering from complex atrial fibrillation. “With 3D mapping, we can provide clinicians with a tool that more precisely maps the intricate functions of the heart and could lead to better treatments and greatly improved patient outcomes,” says Kim. Spectro-imaging breakthroughs Researchers at Korea University are also developing state-of-the-art spectroscopy and imaging techniques like coherent multidimensional spectroscopy and deep-tissue imaging, which have allowed scientists to capture real-time images of the high-speed chemical reactions that occur at the molecular level, leading to breakthroughs in chemistry, molecular biology, and the material sciences. “Because of the advantages of coherent multidimensional spectroscopy over conventional spectroscopic techniques, research in the field is expanding rapidly,” explains Minhaeng Cho, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, and director of the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) Center for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics (CMSD) at Korea University. Cho and his team recently used the technology to create ‘molecular motion pictures’ that capture the ultrafast chemical and biological changes that could take place in living cells, which can often last for only a few quadrillionths (one millionth of one billionth) of a second. “The motion pictures allow us to better understand the chemical changes and conformational transitions that biomolecules undergo in cells, providing deeper insights into the functioning of living cells,” explains Cho. In addition, one of their teams, led by Wonshik Choi, an associate director of CMSD, has developed a deep-tissue imaging technique that has led to the creation of the world’s highest depth-of-field optical microscope. The microspectroscopy combining imaging and time-resolved spectroscopy techniques use ultrafast pulses of laser light to observe the chemical and biochemical reactions in biological systems, which can help in the early diagnoses of diseases, including cancer. He is now working on developing the next generation of spectro-imaging technologies that bring together high-resolution imaging and ultrasensitive detection techniques used in spectroscopy and microscopy. He aims to address a key question for molecular biologists: how does the behaviour of water and biological molecules contained in human cells differ to the properties of bulk water? Water plays a critical role in many cellular processes, such as protein folding and enzymatic reactions. Thus understanding the structure and dynamics of intracellular water is very important. “To what extent these properties differ from those of bulk water is still a hotly debated subject,” says Cho. “My goal is to combine both multidimensional spectroscopy with microscopy to develop an imaging technique that can help us better understand the properties and dynamics of water and a single protein in different regions of living cells, such as the nucleus, cytoplasm or mitochondria.”
March 19, 2021more
APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program Records Fruitful 2020 And Enters 2021 With Many Events
APRU’s Sustainable Waste Management (SWM) Program managed to elevate sustainability as a key focus area for research and teaching despite the pandemic-related distortions in 2020 and successfully started into the current year with a virtual three-session SWM Winter School in January-February. Led by Korea University, the APRU SWM program is designed to play a vital role in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with many of its works focusing on microplastics, heavy metal-related soil pollution and biowaste. The research outcome and studies of the program were featured on Science and Nature, the top two world leading publications, as comments, reviews and letters respectively. The latest Nature article, for example, highlighted the APRU SWM group under the lead of program director Professor Yong Sik Ok currently developing a new technology that can collect plastics from soils and convert them into smart carbon-based materials for a variety of industrial applications, such as air purification filters. The SWM Winter School focused on wastewater treatment and recycling, biochar for sustainable development, and plastics and sustainability. It attracted students from Europe, Asia and North America. “Unsustainable waste management is a pressing environmental and public health problem, and there is growing concern over how to mitigate pollution, achieve sustainable plastic management, and ultimately achieve the SDGs,” said Ok. “I am very grateful that APRU’s SWM program facilitated the Winter School, as its valuable panel discussions helped identifying key problems and provide solutions,” he added. The Winter School followed the APRU SWM co-hosted events Engineering Sustainable Development 2020; The 2nd Australian Circular Economy Conference (ACEC); and the Nature Forum: Plastics and Sustainability, all of which held in December. The APRU SWM also organized the 20th International Conference on Heavy Metals in the Environment (ICHMET) 2020 and the Sustainable Waste Management Workshop: Microplastics in the Environment in October and January 2020 respectively. Next in line are the Nature Forum at 2021 P4G Seoul Summit (May 30-31); the 3rd Sustainable Waste Management Conference co-hosted by AIChE-APRU (August 4-6); and the Nature Conference: Waste Management and Valorization for a Sustainable Future (October 26-28). Moving forward, the SWM program aims to develop joint-virtual events and credit-bearing courses. The program also decided to strengthen its partnership with Nature this year. Two articles, A global approach to a greener future and A private university with a global outlook, just published at nature portfolio showcasing the SWM program and its lead, Korea University. Find out more about the Program here.
February 25, 2021more
COVID-19’s unsustainable waste management
COVID-19’s Unsustainable Waste Management Siming You, Christian Sonne, Yong Sik Ok Science 26 Jun 2020: Vol. 368, Issue 6498, pp. 1438 DOI: 10.1126/science.abc7778 Download the pdf file here. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to an abrupt collapse of waste management chains. Safely managing medical and domestic waste is crucial to successfully containing the disease. Mismanagement can also lead to increased environmental pollution. All countries facing excess waste should evaluate their management systems to incorporate disaster preparedness and resilience. Wuhan, the COVID-19 epicenter of China, experienced a massive increase of medical waste from between 40 and 50 tons/day before the outbreak to about 247 tons on 1 March. Cities such as Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi, and Bangkok experienced similar increases, producing 154 to 280 tons more medical waste per day than before the pandemic. Meanwhile, the widespread lockdown has caused a substantial increase in domestic waste in the United Kingdom. These large amounts of waste require collection and recycling, both of which are compromised as a result of manpower shortages and efforts to enforce infection control measures. Disrupted services have led to waste mismanagement increases of 300% in some rural UK communities. With fewer options available, traditional waste management practices such as landfills and incineration are replacing more sustainable measures such as recycling, with adverse effects on the environment. The U.K. Environment Agency further threatens the environment by allowing temporary storage of waste and incineration ash at sites that have not been granted a permit, as is usually required. To address the overflow of medical waste, the United Kingdom and other affected countries should install mobile treatment systems near hospitals and health care centers. The design and analysis of sustainable waste management chains, including logistics, recycling, and treatment technologies and policies, should be prioritized. To reduce the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of waste management, the whole system must be considered, including waste generation, collection, transport, recycling and treatment, recovered resource use, and disposal of remains. Protecting waste management chains will help achieve sustainable cities and communities as outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
June 30, 2020more
APRU’s Sustainable Waste Management Program highlighted in Nature’s May issue
We are proud to note that Nature, the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal, in its latest issue highlighted key experts from Korea University, including Korea University’s Global Research Director Yong Sik Ok for his role as the leader of the APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program. Read the full post on Nature, today. The program, inaugurated at Korea University in December 2019, focuses on the technical challenges for the recycling and recovering of waste materials while paving the way towards a circular economy, land reclamation, and water and wastewater treatments. It will feed into the Nature Conference on Waste Management and Valorization for a Sustainable Future, to be hosted by Ok in Seoul in October 2021. “Waste management on the land and the seas has become a major national, regional, and global challenge,” Nature quoted Ok as saying. “We need to develop better strategies for more effectively managing our waste, which not only seek to reduce waste but also seek to derive value from the waste we generate through, for example, the conversion of waste to energy and value-added products such as biochar,” Ok added. Nature went on to highlight Korea University’s success in creating the next generation of solar cells and helping the world transition to more efficient and cleaner renewable energy technologies. Research by Korea University’s Associate Professor in Architectural and Social Engineering Jun Hong Noh has been focused on developing solar cells made from perovskite, a mineral with a hybrid organic-inorganic structure. Perovskite solar cells are not only more efficient, lighter, cheaper, and easier to produce than conventional silicon-based cells, they can also be made into flexible devices. Nature also featured Korea University’s research on atrial fibrillation; the pioneering work of Young-Hoon Kim, Vice President, Professor and Executive Director of the Cardiovascular Center at Korea University Anam Hospital, has led to improved diagnoses and treatments. Nature furthermore highlighted Korea University’s prowess in developing state-of-the-art imaging techniques, such as coherent multidimensional spectroscopy, which has allowed scientists to capture real-time images of the high-speed chemical reactions that occur at the molecular level. APRU Sustainable Waste Management Program leader Ok was the first Korean to be selected as a Highly Cited Researcher (HCR) in the field of Environment and Ecology by the Web of Science’s HCR index with 60 Highly Cited Papers and Hot Papers. Korea University has been ranked the top private university in Asia — for the fourth consecutive year — on the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world rankings list.
May 28, 2020more