Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Hong Kong: Market Report

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Hong Kong, an East Asian country, has an area of 1,104 km2. As of 2014, Hong Kong had a population of 7,264,100.

Since July 1st, 1997, Hong Kong is officially called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. Based on the deal between the United Kingdom and China, China has agreed to follow a “one country, two systems” formula pertaining to Hong Kong, and that its socialist economic system would not be enforced in Hong Kong. As a result, Hong Kong has a high level of autonomy in most issues except defense and foreign affairs for the next five decades.

Hong Kong has a free market economy. Hong Kong’s largest trading partner is China, making up for about half of its exports by value. In 2013, the country’s GDP was $274 billion. It is one of the world’s leading global financial centers.

Nanotechnology Organizations

Hong Kong has several organizations and networks supporting nanoscience, and investigating the challenges and future of nanotechnology. A short introduction to Hong Kong’s main nanotechnology-related organizations is given below:

Nano and Advanced Materials Institute Limited (NAMI)—Hosted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), it was set up as a not-for-profit company in Hong Kong. In collaboration with local industries, NAMI carries out market-driven, demand-led development of nanotechnology and advanced materials. Such materials are applicable to the sustained economic growth of Hong Kong as a knowledge-based economy.

Innovation and Technology Commission of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region—It aims to lead Hong Kong’s drive to become a world-class, knowledge-based economy. The main technology areas covered by the Commission include nanotechnology and advanced materials, textiles and clothing, consumer electronics and Chinese medicines.

Asian Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Association (ANNA)—It is a non-profit association registered at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, a government organization under the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), Japan. ANNA has been set up in association with a group of scholars in Hong Kong, China, India, Japan, Singapore, Republic of South Korea, Taiwan, etc. to match the pace of the growing requirements for cooperative interactions among scholars in Asian countries.

While working beyond the frameworks of private and public organizations, ANNA will ensure public service on all study and education matters within the scope of nanotechnology and nanoscience. It offers a common platform for the exchange of ideas among technologists, scientists, teachers, and students.

Nanotechnology Companies

The key nanotechnology-related companies in Hong Kong are listed here along with a short introduction to each of them.

Arry Nano—It is a professional supplier of a wide range of nanomaterials, ranging in quantity from grams to tons, to suit industrial development or academic research purposes. Its product series includes carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and nano-elements as well as nano-oxides (metal, rare earth, and non-metal). It has conducted numerous research and development work in carbon nanotube synthesis and their applications.

Moreover, it has a decade of experience in developing a scalable CVD technique to create high-purity multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) and single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with different diameters, narrow diameter distribution, and excellent level of purity.

KINTEC Company—It aims to deliver superior-quality indium-tin-oxide ITO glass, ITO PEN film, ITO PET film, FTO glass, and other TCO substrates at low prices, which are especially suited for research and academic purposes. More significantly, KINTEC provides ITO patterning services from small to large ITO glasses and plastic films. It also offers a quick global delivery service.

KINTEC can also handle volume production. In R&D, its professional team in Hong Kong is dedicated to invent novel applied technologies and to delivering superior-quality advanced materials.

Nano Downtech Comforters Ltd—It is a member of Nano Group, which has efficiently pioneered an innovative development in the application of nanocoatings on down feathers. This complex, groundbreaking process gives each down feather a fine coating to safeguard the down feathers against wetness, anti-microbials, and agglomeration after washing and quick dry functions. All these new functions remove all the earlier negative attributes related to down feathers.

Nanoworld—The nanometer world (Hong Kong) Co., Ltd. is a professional high-tech company involved in the R&D of nanotechnology. Its work is directed at enhancing the quality of human life and has concluded in the development of a range of 21st-century health products.

Nanotechnology Education and Research

Hong Kong provides a range of research and educational opportunities in nanotechnology. Listed below are some of the universities and academic institutions in Hong Kong together with the academic courses or research opportunities:

City University of Hong Kong—This university is involved in nanotechnology in the following ways:

  • The Center of Super-Diamond and Advanced Films (COSDAF)—This center was launched as a City University Research Center concentrating on nanotechnology and nanomaterials. Research interests include nanoorganic light-emitting displays, semiconductor nanomaterials, advanced nanocoatings, and diamond.
  • Ho Research Lab—It is a part of the City University of Hong Kong. The aim of its research program is to utilize physics, materials science, chemistry, and several engineering disciplines to explore novel nanomaterials and nano-engineering methods for a range of technological applications such as electronics, photonics, energy-harvesting, sensors, etc.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)—Nano Smart Material Fabrication Research laboratory generally works on eco-friendly materials. The lab uses a multidisciplinary approach and leverages knowledge in chemistry, physics, biology, polymer sciences, and several engineering disciplines to develop functional treatment approaches for textile materials.

Nanoelectronics Fabrication Facility—It is a part of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)—This university hosts the following nano-connected groups:

  • The School of Science and the School of Engineering—The schools collaboratively offer Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Postgraduate Programs that combine different disciplines in both science and engineering. The School of Engineering provides Nanotechnology Concentration.
  • Nano Science and Technology (NSNT) Program—The School of Science offers MPhil and PhD Program in Nano Science and Technology (NSNT). The NSNT Program aims to develop students with the essential interdisciplinary knowledge to contribute to the long-term nanoscale R&D. This in turn will pave the way for potential breakthroughs in areas such as materials and manufacturing, environment, chemicals, medicine and healthcare, energy, and biotechnology. This program allows students to use the knowledge in physical science to their study in nanoscience and technology.
  • William Mong Institute of Nano Science and Technology (WMINST)—One of the critical emerging areas of technology advance that will have an impact on mankind in the 21st century is Nano science and technology. At WMINST, faculties have begun research work connected to nano science and technology over 10 years ago. Set up in 2001, as the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST) at the HKUST, INST was renamed as WMINST on February 1st, 2008. Its main mission is to follow world-class fundamental research in the area of nanostructured materials.

Interfacial Nanoengineering Group—The Group comes under the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Hong Kong. Their study is focused on the numerous complications that take place in nanoscale interfacial regions, such as the solid-solid contact interfaces and the solid-liquid electrochemical double-layer. Their work is interdisciplinary and integrates mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, and materials science.

Recent Developments

Scientists at Hong Kong Baptist University have newly developed a nanomaterial-based ultra-hard scratch-resistant film for mobile devices. The ArmoGlass comprises a nano-layer material that is cheaper and stronger than sapphire glass. The material is presently being used on the Apple watch.

The 2012 International Conference on Frontiers of Nanoscience and Technology (ICFNST 2012) was held in Hong Kong between July 26th and 27th, 2012. The conference aimed to offer a platform for scientists, engineers, academicians, and industrial experts worldwide to showcase their research findings and development activities in Nanoscience and Technology, as well as to reinforce global academic cooperation and communications, and to share research concepts.

The 2012 World Conference on Science and Engineering (WCSE 2012) was conducted between August 3rd and 4th, 2012, in Hong Kong. The conference aimed to offer a forum for doctorate students, researchers, scientists, and engineers to be able to talk about ideas and research findings associated with all aspects of engineering and science.

The conference allowed them to debate the practical hurdles in front of them and solutions discovered. Some of the papers presented at this conference included “Development of strain sensor using carbon nanotubes film” and “Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Flow Past a Doubly Clamped Nanotube.” The Conference is likely to be conducted annually.

A study paper titled “Room-temperature ultraviolet laser emission from self-assembled ZnO microcrystallite thin films” by Prof. Zikang Tang and Prof. George Wong of the Department of Physics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) made headlines in July 2012 when it was recognized by Applied Physics Letters (an internationally renowned scientific journal) as one of the most cited papers over the past five decades.

Their research involved the use of high-quality nano-structured ZnO semiconductors, which helped them discover room-temperature ultraviolet (UV) lasing. The innovative discovery has the potential to be applied to ZnO semiconductors in UV laser diodes and energy-saving semiconductor white light sources.

HKUST scientists have joined forces with scientists at Shanghai University in China, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and Swedish company SHT Smart High Tech AB to demonstrate that graphene can be used in computer processors to help in cooling, decreasing energy requirements for cooling, and eventually boosting their life span. The findings were published in Carbon.

Hong Kong ranks number 1 on the Index of Economic Freedom and has one of the world’s most wealthy economies due to its commitment to low taxes, small government, and light regulation. Its economy has also proven to be extraordinarily strong.

The country also spent 0.75% of GDP on R&D in 2010, up from about 0.7% in 2007. This does not compare positively with China, which credited 1.77% of GDP to R&D in 2010, but has plans to grow to 2.5% by 2020. Japan and South Korea reported gross expenditures of R&D of 3.26% and 3.4% of GDP, respectively, in 2010.

In spite of its prosperous economy, Hong Kong does not appear to value R&D as highly as many other developed countries. With their minimal commitment, scientific developments will be less recurrent and nanotechnology development will be slower than that in neighboring nations. It could be that Hong Kong-based companies requiring nanotechnologies will just buy it from other countries.

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