HKUST Launches Institute for Nano Science and Technology
Hong Kong's first nanoscience and nanotechnology research center opened today (15 May) at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).
The HK$10 million Institute for Nano Science and Technology (INST) was officially opened by Dr Alice Lam, Chairman of the University Grants Committee; Francis S W Ho, Commissioner for Innovation and Technology; Paul Bolton, HKUST's Vice-President for Administration and Business; Prof Leroy Chang, University Professor Emeritus; Prof Michael Loy, Dean of Science; and Prof Ping Sheng, Head of Physics and Director of INST. Prof Chunli Bai, Vice-President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and Prof Si-Shen Xie, Director of CAS's Nano-research Center, also attended the ceremony.
The inauguration was one of the major events in the University's 10th anniversary celebrations, which run from April to December 2001.
Nanotechnology has been hailed as one of the most important technologies in the 21st century, together with information technology and biotechnology. Nanotechnology is the study of materials that measure from one to 100 nanometers, with one nanometer equals to one-billionth of a meter. When materials are measured in nanometers, they display extraordinary physical, chemical and electronic properties, opening up new research areas, and leading to novel applications.
Because of their novel properties, nanostructured materials offer potential applications in electronics, biotechnology and information technology. In specific terms, nanomaterials can be used in MEMS (micro electromechanical systems such as tiny medical devices that run inside human body), computer and TV displays, mobile phone batteries and other consumer electronics products.
"Nanotechnology is like a 'second evolution' in which nanostructured entities can be assembled to form complex structures, from which can spring new technologies and new devices that may eventually change our lives," says Prof Ping Sheng.
Nanotechnology research at HKUST started with initial funding in basic research from the Research Grants Council. Over the past several years, HKUST's Physics and Chemistry Departments have established an impressive track record in nanoscience and nanotechnology research. Among its notable breakthroughs are: the development of a tunable structural photonic crystal that can be used to make miniaturized infrared laser equipment; the creation of the world's smallest single-walled carbon nanotubes--only 0.4nm in diameter, these could eventually revolutionize microelectronics and make hydrogen-driven electric cars a reality; and the development of a nano-structured, super thin and low-cost microwave-absorbing film that can be used to shield the human body from radiation emitted by mobile phones and other wireless communication devices.
"All along our focus is on basic research. But as you can see, our research results can be translated into practical applications by industry. With the establishment of INST, there will be more industrial collaboration and commercialization activities to follow," says Prof Sheng.
Based in Hong Kong, INST provides a platform for researchers around the world to advance nanotechnology research. In 1997, HKUST established a Joint Laboratory on Nanostructured Materials and Technology with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The link was further strengthened today with the signing of an agreement dedicated to an increase in academic exchanges, research collaborations and the nurturing of research experts.
Internationally renowned physicists from US universities such as Princeton, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara serve as INST advisors, with Prof Leroy Chang as the Chairman of the Advisory Committee. Prof Marvin Cohen, an INST advisor and University Professor of UC Berkeley, described recent advances and new ideas associated with research on nanotubes, nanocrystals, "buckyballs", superconductivity and electronic devices at a Distinguished Lecture on "Nanoscience and Nanotechnology", held after the opening ceremony. This was followed by an inaugural workshop in which nanotechnology experts from the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong shared the latest developments of nanoscience and nanotechnology research.
Also at the inauguration, three faculty members received recognition for their contribution to research and development. Dr C T Chan, Associate Professor of HKUST's Physics Department, was presented the 2000 Achievement in Asia Award by the Overseas Chinese Physics Association for his contributions to the theory and the simulation of material properties. Prof Otto Lin, HKUST's Vice-President for Research and Development and Prof Sheng are the first scientists from Hong Kong to be elected Members of the Asia Pacific Academy of Materials (APAM) in 2000. The two received the awards today from Prof Huey-Liang Hwang, Vice Chair of APAM.
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