‘Super microscope’ stars at unique CityU summer course

Yvonne Lee


A pioneering summer course on neutron scattering will be held at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) from 11 to 15 August with funding worth HK$1.8 million from the Croucher Foundation.
This summer course, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, is a rare opportunity for promising postgraduate students, young academics and industry professionals to study this new yet powerful tool, dubbed the “super microscope”, which is used for characterising the structure and dynamics of materials.
Professor Wang Xunli
, Head of the Department of Physics and Materials Science and the Director of this summer course, said that neutron scattering was new to Hong Kong, adding that CityU was taking the leading role in bringing this powerful tool to the local scientific community.
Neutron scattering has become an important tool in physics: it has led to major advances in many areas of science and technology such as clean energy, pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology, materials engineering, among many others.
It is critical to the discovery and development of new materials, too. It acts like a super microscope, enabling scientists to look through and understand materials at the atomic level.
Dubbed “super” because it is applicable to a wide spectrum of areas, it is non-destructive and reflects how individual atoms change over time in terms of temperature and other variables.
For example, it is useful in assessing the stress of a high-speed rail track, which helps us to better understand the causes of railway crashes and thus enhance public safety. Additionally, it can peer into the human body and provide critical data that can make surgery safer.
The summer course is a five-day residence course, comprising 30 local, mainland and overseas postgraduate students, young academics and industry professionals who come from diversified fields such as physics, chemistry, materials and life sciences, among others. Participants can interact with world-renowned professors who will be delivering lectures on neutron scattering and with the course tutors, facilitating learning and future collaboration. The course will be offered every other year, i.e., in 2016 and 2018.
“A great opportunity is lying ahead with the opening of the China Spallation Neutron Source [CSNS] in Dongguan in 2018,” Professor Wang said. “It is a world-class facility for materials research. Geographically, Hong Kong's community is well-positioned to take the advantage of the facility. No doubt Hong Kong will become the regional centre for neutron scattering. We must have people who are equipped with the necessary skills.”
Professor Wang, a renowned expert in neutron scattering, and his colleagues have introduced this powerful tool to scientists in Hong Kong. At present, his research focuses on two materials: metallic glasses and magnetic shape memory alloys. The research results will help broaden the scope of applications for metallic glasses such as bio compatible materials for implants, and can potentially transform a wide spectrum of transducer technologies in diversified fields such as automotive, biomedical, consumer electronics, etc. He has been an advisor to the CSNS project since its conception.
The opening ceremony of the summer course was held on 11 August. The officiating guests were Professor Way Kuo, President of CityU; Mr David Foster, Director of the Croucher Foundation; Professor Chen Yuanbo, Deputy Manager of CSNS; Professor Takeshi Egami, University of Tennessee; and Professor Wang.
The Croucher Foundation is an independent private foundation established by the late Noel Croucher in 1979 to promote the standard of the natural sciences, technology and medicine in Hong Kong. It offers a variety of funding programmes including scholarships for doctoral study, fellowships for postdoctoral research, senior research fellowships and grants for conferences, workshops and collaborative research.


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