In an East meets West conference held in Taiwan last week, UCSB and Taiwanese professors agreed: Good things come in nano-sized packages.

Lecturing on issues ranging from energy efficiency to new communication technologies, UCSB researchers met with professors and students alike from both National Taiwan University and National Tsing-hua University. The two-day conference was part of a larger series hosted by the International Research Advancement, entitled “Convergence of Global Innovators.” The event mostly centered on increasing relations between UCSB and Taiwanese researchers, as well as the discussion of polymer research.

Through the study of polymers, such as DNA, proteins and plastics, scientists at the UCSB Materials Research Laboratory have focused on developing technologies that can mimic biological functions, which could eventually lead to longer lasting artificial limbs. Other UCSB researchers have studied polymers in order to create more energy efficient materials – a subject of particular interest to East Asia, where energy crises are starting to emerge.

Additionally, UCSB researchers came to Taiwan to learn from scientists who are likewise excelling in the development of nanotechnology – microscopic tools created to the scale of one-billionth of a meter, used to create and improve a wide range of materials. At UCSB, through institutions such as the Center for Nanotechnology in Society, scientists are constantly developing new nanomaterials such as those found in Blu-ray technology.

UCSB College of Engineering Dean Matthew Tirrell, who attended the conference, said he thinks it is important for UCSB to establish international relations. He said about 100 UCSB alumni are already in Taipei, Taiwan working in businesses and universities.

“Asia is a very dynamic, growing place,” Tirrell said. “For Asian students, it’s more important to get international experience by coming to the States and it’s important for American students to get international experience by going to Asia.”

Fire the Lasers

According to Tirrell, Taiwan is heavily oriented toward electronics and maintains several industry contacts. At the conference, Tirrell discussed the development of nanoparticles, which can be used in applications such as solar panels to make energy absorption more efficient as well as in drugs used to target brain cancer. He also said conference-goers studied the newest advancements in laser technology, including blue lasers.

Blue lasers have shorter wavelengths and are used in compact discs that have the ability to store two to four times the amount of data of a red laser. Tirrell also encouraged Taiwanese students to attend UCSB graduate programs at the College of Engineering.

Another conference attendee, UCSB Materials Research Laboratory Director Craig Hawker, spoke about developments in holographic systems and how to improve the effectiveness of solid state lighting devices, which use light-emitting diodes commonly found in cell phone displays, flat-panel televisions and traffic lights.

In addition, the conference covered topics such as exploring new materials for imprint lithography, a method for using chemicals to print images on smooth surfaces, and how to develop high performance thermosets – materials that cannot be softened by heat – for encapsulation technology, which confines molecules within one another.

Lighting the Way

Since UCSB is focusing on how to make lighting more energy efficient, studies have turned to solid state lighting to replace current light bulbs. According to IRA Associate Director C.K. Lin, solid state lightings are better than regular light bulbs because they use LEDs, which do not burn out like other bulbs and do not get very hot. Lin also said light bulbs are usually only about 5 percent efficient and that the majority of the energy used is often wasted because it becomes merely heat emitted from the bulbs.

As for Hawker, he said his research has had groundbreaking results in the creation and assembly of polymers, which may improve treatments for cardiovascular diseases and increase the performance of storage devices, such as Blu-ray discs.

Another conference-goer, UCSB Materials Research Laboratory Associate Director Glenn Frederickson, discussed his research with the Complex Fluids Design Consortium, a group of researchers who develop software to use in polymer products such as plastic materials, paints and personal care products like hairsprays and cosmetics. Seven faculty members and four laboratory partners are involved as well as seven corporate partners, including the Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation and General Electric.

The Consortium is interested in the computational design of soft materials and complex fluids that are often viscoelastic – items that have both adhesive and elastic qualities.

From Taiwan to China

As far as future conferences go, Tirrell said he would continue encouraging students from abroad to attend UCSB.

“I’d like to see that we continue to get the very best students from Asia coming to UCSB to study,” he said. “That’s the principal goal that I have and that’s why it was worth three days out of my life to go there and meet with people.”

Fredrickson said he wants students and professors to work together.

“I hope to see research collaborations between the Taiwan Universities and UCSB and also opportunities for student exchange at both the undergraduate and graduate level,” he said.

In addition to pushing for Asians and Americans to join forces, Hawker said he wants to gain more visibility for UCSB in the global context.

“My personal goals for the IRA are to further develop UCSB as a hub of international research activities and excellence in materials while also improving our student population and industrial connections,” he said.

Tirrell said he will probably visit Taiwan once or twice a year in order to continue to cultivate global relations. In the future, he wants to expand collaborations beyond Taiwan and he said he is particularly interested in China and Korea as well.