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As an international research university, HKUST has c clear positioning as a focused elite reseach and education institution with an international outlook, emphasizing interdisciplinary studies, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, The University's achievements in research facilitate the transformation of discoveries into sustainable solutions

In 2014-15, 69 environment-related research projects were conducted at HKUST. The scope of these projects covered a wide range of envionmental issues including renewable energy production, wastewater treatment, food waste management, air quality, sewage treatment, green building, green transportation, environmental motivations and others.

Novel High-speed Energy-saving Transistors

The field of microelectronics is profoundly changing the world and daily life through computers, mobiles and other electronic gadgets. With the continuous demand for increases in speed and functionality, there is an on-going need for high-performance transistors that can be used in integrated circuits. HKUST is one of few leading teams around the world pursuing research of high-performance compound devices on conventional silicon.

A research team led by Prof Kei May Lau, Chair Professor in the Department of Electronic & Computer Engineering has developed a novel "match-making" technology to deposit next-generation high-speed energy-efficient transistors on silicon using high-mobility compound semiconductor materials. These devices seek to reduce power consumption by as much as 10 times and increase switching speed five folds. Such technology is expected to be widely used by the semiconductor integrated circuits industry sector in the future.

The team has received the JSAP Outstanding Paper Award by The Japan Society of Applied Physics, the only research team in Hong Kong and Mainland China to receive this award in its history since 1979. They have also presented their findings at the International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM) 2012, the 10th Topical Workshop on Heterostructure Microelectronics and the 74th JSAP Autumn Meeting 2013.

Materials for an "Artificial Leaf" for Solar Fuel Production

There is growing consensus in the scientific community that the increasing amount of CO2 generated from energy extraction and production has created an imbalance in the Earth's natural carbon cycle, and accumulated in the atmosphere. This important greenhouse gas is the main culprit behind climate change. It affects the global economy, and also threatens the environment, community's health and quality of life.

CO2 capture and sequestration in geologic and oceanic storages has received supports from many governments as a viable strategy for CO2 emission reduction, albeit a costly and unsustainable solution for the long-term. A more viable and sustainable approach is the revalorization of CO2 into raw materials for production of fuels and chemicals. Today, CO2 is consumed in the production of urea used in fertilizers and plastics, salicylic acid used in pharmaceuticals and polycarbonates plastics. However, the demand for CO2 would be considerably larger if it can be converted into fuel.

Professor King Lun Yeung in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and his research team explore new opportunities in engineering and material innovation for CO2-to-fuel conversion in an "artificial leaf" powered by energy harvested from the sun. The outcomes will create considerable business opportunities, reduce pollution and at the same time provide energy security for the future.

Innovative Air Purifier to Combat Air-conditioning Syndrome with Forest-grade Air

Although air-conditioning is a blessing for office workers, it does have troublesome side effects. Carbon dioxide accumulates and oxygen levels drop in air-conditioned offices throughout the day, making it difficult to focus, promoting tiredness and generating anxiety.

Aware of this noxious situation, Dr Zhang Di (Ph.D., Bioengineering, 2014), and the founding members of NeoForest developed a 40 square meter photosynthetic air purifier that promises to pump fresh, forest-grade air into an indoor environment. That was achieved by using microalgae instead of filters, which performs photosynthesis that could generate oxygen and clean up carbon dioxide, on top of air pollutants including particulate matter 2.5, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide. This can effectively combat the often-seen air conditioning syndrome in many offices that hinders the mind to think and respond.As a graduate student from China, Dr Zhang and her team see great market potential of their invention. “The market size of air purifiers in China was about 13 billion RMB in 2015, and currently no existing products in the market can do what NeoForest does,” said Zhang. “This gives us a unique advantage and enormous room for growth.”Through HKUST’s annual One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition, Dr Zhang’s team was able to find many potential collaborators, who have expressed their interest in turning their invention into reality. Now the team has offered custom-made versions to corporations, and expects to launch the product by 2018. Soon we could all benefit from the sweet scent of forest air.
Sewage Treatment Technology – The 'SANI' Process

Hong Kong is currently the only location globally using seawater flushing on a city scale. Conventional biological wastewater treatment technology makes use of microbes to clean up sewage by converting organic pollutants into carbon dioxide. The microbes action will result into production of 2,000 tonnes of sludge every day in Hong Kong. Handling of the sewage sludge incurs high costs. Moreover, it is environmentally unfriendly as the use of sludge incinerators is highly energy intensive and create air pollution.

A research team from HKUST, led by Prof Guanghao Chen of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has invented a sewage treatment technology, known as the 'Sulphate Reduction, Autotrophic Denitrification and Nitrification Integrated (SANI)' Process. This novel technology successfully minimizes the adverse environmental impact of sewage treatment plants by eliminating 90% of sewage sludge production, minimizing energy consumption as well as odour and greenhouse-gas emission. Moreover, it largely reduces the sewage treatment cost and space requirement by 50%.

A research team from HKUST, led by Prof Guanghao Chen of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has invented a sewage treatment technology, known as the 'Sulphate Reduction, Autotrophic Denitrification and Nitrification Integrated (SANI)' Process. This novel technology successfully minimizes the adverse environmental impact of sewage treatment plants by eliminating 90% of sewage sludge production, minimizing energy consumption as well as odour and greenhouse-gas emission. Moreover, it largely reduces the sewage treatment cost and space requirement by 50%.

New Power Source For Our Future

Driven by a few drops of alcohol fuel, a model car on the go for 10 hours, an MP3 that plays for 20 hours. Fuel cells are more efficient, sustainable, cleaner and cost-effective energy source, which convert chemical energy of hydrogen, natural gas, and alcohols directly to electricity As communities around the world increasingly emphasize the importance of green and sustainable energy sources, fuel cells have become a hot research topic worldwide.

Prof Tianshou Zhao and his researchers in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering have become global pioneers in raising the performance of Direct Alcohol Fuel Cells. Among other achievements, his group holds the internationally acknowledged world record for the power density of direct ethanol fuel cells. "Energy is a challenging area because of its strong multidisciplinary nature, but this also makes it both interesting and rewarding, it is also hugely significant for us all" said Prof Zhao.

Prof Zhao foresees that the new fuel cell could make mobile phone batteries last twice as long and improve computers, appliances, and electric cars, among other applications. Necessary fuel can be generated from common plant sources, such as tangerines or sugar cane. It is hoped that the new technology can be marketed in around seven to eight years, following further research to increase their efficiency, reduce production costs and extend their lifespan.

Solar Sorption Cooling System

A research team from HKUST's Fok Ying Tung Graduate School has invented a solar sorption cooling system, which uses materials with sorption properties to control the pressure of refrigerants. As sorption cooling systems do not require compressors, this system consumes 70-80 percent less electrical power than traditional systems and avoid the usage of ozone-damaging, toxic and flammable materials. When the sorption material adsorbs a certain amount of refrigerant vapour, the material becomes saturated. Heat can then be supplied to it to "desorb" the adsorbed refrigerant vapour, which completes the cooling cycle. Solar heat or waste heat can be used as the major power source for the cooling system, making it highly energy efficient. The HKUST system uses mineral salt composite as the sorption material and water as the refrigerant. The team aims to collaborate with companies to begin marketing products using this system in the coming years.