[Current Issues] Ministry of Science and Technology Protects the Blue Sky
- Date : 23-09-27
- Views : 61
"Research will help create a safe society" diversifying factors of global environmental changes
September 7th is the "International Day of Clean Air for blue skies." It is a Korean national memorial day and the first UN-celebrated international day led by Korea. The "International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies," first proposed at the UN Climate Summit 2019 held in New York, was designated to increase public awareness of the atmospheric environment and climate change and encourage global participation in air pollution reduction activities. Various events are organized to promote actions towards achieving clean air.
A clean global environment is one of the primary challenges addressed by the scientific and technological community. Numerous studies are being conducted worldwide to reduce particulate matter and greenhouse gases and to respond to climate change. The Climate and Environmental Research Institute of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) is also conducting research to promote preemptive response to disasters and damages predicted to result from future climate and environmental changes.
On the occasion of the "International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies," we interviewed Jinyoung Kim, the director of the Climate and Environmental Research Institute. She stated, "Extreme weather events, such as heat waves, floods, and hurricanes, are occurring more frequently than in the past, and wide research should be conducted by the science and technology community in a large and broad scope of the climatic environment. We have expertise in not only research for securing clean air and water resources but also R&D planning and policy making. As the only government-funded research institute that conducts R&D specialized for climate and environment from a perspective other than energy, we will implement a safe and sustainable society through research that minimizes disasters and damages caused by climate change."
Q. Please introduce the Climate and Environmental Research Institute.
A. The Climate and Environmental Research Institute was launched in July 2021 to address the need for research on climatic and environmental changes. It was founded based on the existing environmental research team, and now consists of ▲ the Center for Water Cycle Research, ▲ the Center for Sustainable Environment Research, and ▲ the Clean Air Center.
Q. What are the roles of each research center?
A. The Center for Water Cycle Research was established in 1970 as an urban planning laboratory and is a research team within KIST that has accumulated significant R&D expertise over a long time. The center's research began from the perspective of clean water and water treatment and has since evolved into research on droughts, floods, and securing water resources. Studies of both quantitative and qualitative approaches are underway to provide solutions by approaching issues concerning the environment as a whole, including water and resources, from responding to novel pollutants such as microplastics to addressing water shortages due to drought.
The Center for Sustainable Environment Research takes on the national challenge of realizing a safe living environment. The center began an artificial precipitation project to respond to climate change as a representative task of the Climate and Environmental Research Institute. Its scope of research is expanding to climatology, and experts on extreme climate, carbon cycle, and climate modeling using AI are collaborating to propose solutions to climatic and environmental problems.
The Clean Air Center serves as a research and R&D policy control tower for identifying the causes of air pollution[A1] , such as particulate matter, and solving such problems. It is the only organization within KIST where research and policy teams coexist. Another peculiarity is that the center collaborates with other research institutes and universities to conduct its research projects.
Q. Are you stating that KIST shares its government contributions with outside organizations? That could not have been an easy decision.
A. Addressing particulate matter is a challenging task for a single institution. KIST executives designed the institution's projects using its contributions and allocated approximately half of the research funds to external organizations to enable the response to fine dust in collaboration with other research agencies.
We are conducting basic and original research in four fields: atmospheric science, emission reduction, exposure reduction, and health risk. The international cooperation is also vital in addressing particulate matter, hence, we cooperate with China and Japan in atmospheric measurement. In the domain of exposure reduction, several government-funded agencies are collaborating to conduct research to monitor and identify the effects of particulate matter on various human organs, including the brain.
Q. When hearing "International Day of Clean Air for blue skies," the first thing that comes to mind is a sky without particulate matter. What are some of the institution's achievements related to particulate matter?
A. KIST has announced various achievements, from identifying the causes of fine dust to its effects on humans. Through the analysis of the brain exposed to particulate matter, we found decreased motor skills and increased anxiety and encephalitic reactions. We also identified the process by which particulate matter from China interacts with substances emitted in Korea, leading to a further increase in the concentration of fine particulate matter in Korea.
We have also accomplished several achievements in terms of reducing particulate matter. Because nitrogen oxide from ship and automobile engines is known to produce secondary particulate matter, we have developed an eco-friendly catalyst that captures nitrogen oxide at low temperatures and transferred the technology to Doosan Engine.
Q. Does the direction of the research on fine dust change over time?
A. Research from various perspectives has become necessary with the recent increase in the importance of net-zero emissions and carbon neutrality. For instance, while it is expected that electric vehicles do not generate particulate matter, they create relatively more non-exhaust particulate emissions owing to wear and tear of brakes and tires because they are heavier from the weight of the battery.
Moreover, because ammonia, which is considered the clean energy of the future, is a precursor that produces particulate matter, we must be prepared for unburned ammonia or leakage, and it is necessary to contemplate reducing nitrogen oxides that occur during the combustion process and prepare related policies. This is also the reason why the Ministry of Science and ICT recently began researching on particulate matter reduction in response to the Net Zero Era. I believe more active research should be conducted to respond to these problems preemptively.
Q. What achievements has the Climate and Environmental Research Institute made besides those related to fine dust that KIST has worked on for a long time?
A. There were a few notable achievements at the top level in the first year of the foundation of the Climate and Environmental Research Institute. However, two of our members have already received KIST's "Person of the Month" award this year. Dr. Jihye Byun, the recipient of KIST's "Person of the Month" award in March, developed a technology for the eco-friendly production of hydrogen peroxide, one of the industry's top 100 substances, using solar energy. Drs. Jaewoo Choi and Kyungwon Jung, the award recipients in August, developed a technology that dramatically increases the recovery rate of precious metals from waste and transferred the technology. Additionally, we are deriving various strides in achieving excellence, such as preparing for water shortage problems using water heat and solar energy and conducting studies on microplastics. I expect that more innovative responses to climate change will be achieved in the future through more active cooperation between researchers.
Q. One of the goals of the Climate and Environmental Research Institute is to build a cloud chamber. Could you explain what a cloud chamber is?
A. Cloud chambers are being built to cope with future climate change and global environmental changes. KIST's cloud chamber is the only one with dual methods of generating clouds - expansion or convection - depending on the purpose; utilizing it enables a range of scientific studies, such as investigations into artificial precipitation or the correlation between precipitation and particulate matter.
In particular, condensation nuclei, the seeds that create clouds, are necessary for artificial precipitation. We are collaborating with Advanced Materials Research Division researchers[A2] to develop these condensation nuclei. KIST is the only institution in the world conducting technology development that covers the entire process of developing cloud-seed materials and verifying their effectiveness using cloud chambers. This is possible because various researchers, such as those specializing in materials and computational science, are gathered at KIST, and it is expected that they will achieve broader synergy with researchers studying the climate and environment in the future.
The chamber design is currently in the process, and the equipment necessary for cloud measurement is being acquired. When the chamber is completed, the cloud generation process can be simulated using the chamber and condensation nuclei developed by the material team. This simulation, paired with outdoor drone experiments, is expected to produce practical and outstanding results.
Q. What kind of organization would you like the Climate and Environmental Research Institute to be in the future?
A. As the organization is new, our workforce is still smaller than other research institutes and headquarters. There are resulting difficulties, but there also are numerous opportunities to showcase each individual's abilities, and many researchers are willing to achieve something. I expect that the accumulation of these efforts will allow us to accomplish our goals step by step in the next few years. It has only been approximately two years since the foundation of the Climate and Environmental Research Institute, but we bear a heavy responsibility for climate change and the safety of our lives. We will do our best to become an organization that tackles various issues, including extreme weather events, and contribute to creating a better global environment.