The Eighth U.S.-Korea Forum on Nanotechnology:
Nanotechnology for Sustainability

Pasadena, CA, USA, April 4 & 5, 2011


General Information









M.S. Jhon (U.S.A.)
Carnegie Mellon University

J.W. Lee (Korea)
Hanyang University

Recommendations of the Eighth U.S.-Korea Forum on Nanotechnology:
Nanotechnology for Sustainability

Adopted on April 5, 2011

The past decade in scientific development has been characterized by mutual and interdisciplinary research initiatives to achieve rapid and sustainable progress. To this purpose, the United States and Korea have been vigorously encouraging a common platform for the exchange of ideas in nanotechnology through our Forums, set up by the recommendations made by the Korea-US joint committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (held on October 30 & 31, 2002 in Seoul). 

Our Forums have been extremely successful in providing a common platform for effective networking between research communities and industries in both countries by identifying key areas in nanotechnology which generate huge impact. This is evident from major collaboration initiatives established via our efforts and we believe that organizing this Forum has significantly expedited the generation of cutting edge technologies in critical areas in both countries.

The first Forum, held in Seoul during October 14 & 15, 2003, was attended by 250 participants from both countries and covered a broad range of nano-research areas. The second Forum, held in Los Angeles during February 17th and 18th, 2005, and was attended by 32 experts, was a topical meeting that focused on nano-manufacturing and educational program development in nanotechnology. The third Forum, held in  Seoul on April 3rd & 4th, 2006, which was attended by 150 participants, focused on active devices and systems research in nanotechnology. The fourth Forum, held on April 26th & 27th, 2007 held in Honolulu, focused on the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) implications of nanotechnology and was attended by 36 experts. The fifth Forum dealt with the emerging area of nano-biotechnology focusing on nano-biomaterials, instrumentation technologies, and integrated systems for overcoming critical challenges in biomedicine and delivery of healthcare as well as their EHS and toxicity issues. This Forum was held in Jeju Island, Korea on April 17th & 18th, 2008, and was attended by 44 experts. The sixth Forum held in Las Vegas on April 28th & 29th attended by 39 scientists, dealt with the emerging area of nano-electronics with emphasis on fundamentals as well as integration of broad research topics. The seventh Forum, which was held in Seoul on April 5th & 6th attended by 150 participants focused on the fundamentals of energy convergence of nanotechnology incorporating alternative energy resources.

The (present) eighth Forum held at Caltech on April 4th & 5th participated by 41 eminent scientists and policy makers in the field of nanotechnology along with 20 nanoscience experts present in audience, focused on nanotechnology convergence in sustainability to address current crippling problems faced by an ever increasing global population with an emphasis on environmentally friendly technologies for the future. The lecture room was Beckman Institute Auditorium where former president Bill Clinton gave his famous speech a decade ago, which initiated National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).

The following are the general recommendations of this Forum to ensure the partnership between the two countries for the continued success in nanotechnology research:

(1)  The Forum will provide a common ground for researchers, educators, and administrators at all levels in both countries to share their experiences and expertise to enhance partnership in the field of nanotechnology.

(2)  Identification of host centers to initiate collaborative research as well as to establish exchange programs for the early-career researchers in a global environment.

(3)  Identify and foster the supporting mechanism for exchange of Forum participants by utilizing their expertise via seminar series (for senior participants) and research lab tours (for junior scientists) one to two days immediately after the Forum. Funding for extended stay after the Forum for collaborative global research activity should be available.

(4)  The future collaboration activities and policy making will use the long term strategy outlined in the report “Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal needs in 2020: Summary of International Study (NSF/WTEC study; 2010,” as a reference, with a special focus on (a) methods and tools for investigation, synthesis and manufacturing in sustainable processes, (b) responsible and effective management to realize the full potential of nano-manufacturing, and (c) investing in physical infrastructure including education and governance of nanotechnology for societal benefit. 

(5)  Sustainability research often leaves out energy technology, and energy technology leaves out people, and as a result, the social context is lost. Therefore, the upcoming Forums could focus on developing a novel integrated innovation model by engaging with the public and creating huge social implications.

(6)  These Forums have been successful in generating close collaborations among small groups so far. In order to have a global impact in the future, bringing together many multi-disciplinary teams to create a major integrated project is necessary, for example, establishment of a “U.S.-Korea Integrated Nanotechnology Center” is recommended.

The following are the recommendations presented by the two sub–groups:

Group 1 (Water reuse and desalination)

Extraction of water


  • Novel technologies have emerged which are based on biomimetic systems that model the behavior of the membrane protein, Acquaporin.
  • Current efforts are focused on mass production of clean water using these biomimetic technologies.


  • Issue being faced is process scale-up, where a thorough knowledge in polymers is required.
  • No existing infrastructure viable to make novel membranes

Extraction of salts


  • Novel technology in this area: Ion-channels, which are pore forming proteins that help in establishing a small voltage gradient across the membrane to allow flow of ions.
  • Membranes are preferred to conventional separation media for waste minimization
  • Nano-ionics is an emerging issue for developing novel membranes in desalination and energy conversion applications.


  • Reverse osmosis (RO) has set the gold standard, but there has only been incremental progress.
  • Thermodynamics controls the system.
  • Forward osmosis (FO), if developed well, consumes much less energy.


  • Due to conformation changes in the biological ion channel, it may be difficult to obtain high efficiency.
  • Having nanomaterials which change the shape may still be very difficult.  Question is: what is the driving force we need to aim at?
  • Fouling in RO is the area that can be improved.
  • Waste water: not a major breakthrough using FO. Future lies in constructing proper membranes. System design is far behind the demonstration in pilot scale.

Alternative directions

  • To inform Congress of the potential high economic value that can result from U.S.-Korean research programs.

-  Embedding multifunctional materials that carry out many functional tasks instead of performing catalysis, separation, and other processes separately

-  In this regard, reactive membranes have limitations: reactivity vs. fast flow rate, for example

  • Water capture and harvesting in atmosphere.

-  Example mechanisms include humidifier and CO2 capture

-  Underlying assumption: Eco-system may be hampered

  • Two-stage nano-filtration.

Nanomaterials: Points of consideration

  • Flux, fouling, and pretreatment to save the energy in the end.
  • Using nanoparticles (structures including templates, spherical, and tubes) to make membranes, light UV treatment for decomposition.

Grand challenges

  • The issue of removal of contaminants is especially difficult.

-  Technology required: unique sensors and nanoparticle removal from water

-  Need materials for particular contaminants which are selectively reactive

  • Understanding the fundamentals of nanomaterials.

-  Manufacture of materials which are tailor-made for applications (design of knowledge based processes)

-  Designing membranes is an art, but a real understanding of how to develop such specialized functionalities via manipulating underlying chemistry is critical, for example, controlling pore size distribution for mono-disperse membranes

-  Ion exchange membranes: Feasibility of extracting water vs. extracting ions.

-  Current issue: carbon nanotube (CNT) vs. graphene –CNT is permeable to water although it is hydrophobic, which is counter-intuitive. Possible solutions include hydrophilic ionic polymers as an active layer or hydrophilic inorganic materials

U.S.-Korea collaboration

  • International collaboration in chemistry exists between the U.S.and Japan, Germany, etc., but still nothing with Korea.
  • Discussions at policy making levels are needed between individual investigators.
  • Exchange of students using existing NSF grants.

-  $ 100, 000/year for exchanging students through Korea Research Foundation (KRF)

-  U.S. has to match the funds

  • Identifying individual collaborators on specific projects.
  • Creation of small centers makes it easier to raise funds.

-  Establishment of the “U.S.-Korea Interdisciplinary Center”

  • Industry in Korea can support this international collaboration.
  • Offer practical courses (one in Korea and the other in U.S.) à Brings recognition from companies.

Group 2 (Greenhouse gas capture & conversion and sustainable natural resources)

CO2 reduction

  • CO2 capture from methane has a long history.
  • According to the Department of Energy (DOE), 80% of CO2 emission is from power plants.


  • Some groups in Korea have constructed nanomaterials which can contain CO2.
  • High surface area materials have been synthesized to remove CO2 from water.
  • Physical, membrane, and some separation methods are being actively pursued for CO2 removal.
  • Scientific report in geochemistry has shed light on nano-separation and processing in the U.S.
  • Novel technologies for CO2 separation including enzymes are being developed, which can be utilized very soon.
  • Molecular/ nanoscale technology has been applied for CO2 separation.


  • Design of CO2 transportation wells is not yet convincing.
  • Formation of CO2 is very slow so storage underground is not sufficient.
  • We have to strongly recommend the U.S. government for CO2 issue like Korea.
  • The U.S. does not have much information about CO2 issues in other countries.
  • Efforts must be made for the U.S. government to understand its importance and problems.

CO2 conversion issue


  • Work has been done on microbes that can convert CO2 into renewable material.
  • Work focusing on conversion of CO2 into energy.
  • Similar to the carbon cycle occurring in nature, we can convert CO2 gas into energy  using electrochemical process.


  • Korea, Japan, and China have collaborations concerning the CO2 issue, however, they are focused on a narrow range of issues. CO2 emission control criteria are different in each country.
  • Also, between the U.S.and Korea, there are several scientifically related differences on this issue, so one has to fix some regulation and criteria for CO2.

Nanotechnology convergence in sustainability


  • Nano-information technology tells us how can we approach this sustainability of nanotech for CO2. We are now in a position to understand how nanotechnology is related to sustainability. Every agency has established CO2 regulations, but they should cooperate.


  • To ensure sustainability for nanotechnology in CO2 control, the U.S.’s approach in is different from other aspects. We should know about international technologies, and Government needs to care about this matter.


  • We need to make nanotechnology and sustainability education a priority area. Public should understand the relation between CO2, environment, and nanotechnology. Government (especially EPA) and scientists have different point of view, which should be effectively communicated.

Role of the scientific community on the societal impact of nanotech and CO2 issue

  • Agencies should cooperate with scientists on the issue and support, however, research funds cannot increase much.
  • We need to take up a project on environment on some issues that people care about.

 U.S.-Korea Collaboration

  • CO2 issue and nanotechnology are very important at this time. This is the first Forum for sustainability and nanotechnology and should be continued and developed.
  • Very little is known about CO2 storage and conversion, and we need to find the solution for CO2 problem via various approaches. Therefore, we need more research funding.
  • We have established cooperation with many different teams (both Korea and U.S.) to create a major project (such as a new age Manhattan Project).
  • We will have to begin by getting scientific aspects together. This is an important socio-scientific problem.
  • Monitoring system should then be established by the Government.
  • Exchange of young people from both countries should be done. If a chance for international exposure is provided, this area can be further developed.

On behalf of the U.S participants

On behalf of the Korean participants

Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Seoul, Korea