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Inspiring research projects on show at Discovery and Innovation Gala

Terry Lam

The creativity for applying technology to solve real-life problems by students and faculty from the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) is unleashed at the Discovery and Innovation Gala 2016 from 22 to 23 June.

More than 100 research projects from academic staff and students at CSE’s nine departments and one division are exhibited in the Gala.

Officiating guests at the opening ceremony were Mr Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Hong Kong SAR Government; Professor Way Kuo, CityU President; and Professor Yan Hong, Dean of CSE.

In his speech at the ceremony, Mr Yang said he witnessed the creativity of CityU students at many events including the Discovery Festival in February and today’s Discovery and Innovation Gala.

“University education cultivates creative talent and fosters knowledge transfer through well-structured curriculum and interdisciplinary exposure and training. We hope to broaden the vision and horizons of students in their continual flight to wonder,” he said.   

Professor Kuo said the 2-day exhibition would showcase CityU’s strengths in discovery and innovation research. “The accomplishments of our students and faculty that are presented at the Gala help to build bridge between the University and industry.”

In some of the projects, students are inspired by daily life as well as hot issues in society, which they seek to tackle through imagination and knowledge application.

For example, Anton Law Hui-lun, a student from the Department of Physics and Materials Science, began to research lead contamination in drinking water at some public housing estates in Hong Kong.

“Lead is poisonous especially for infants and pregnant women. A quick and easy way to detect lead in drinking water would definitely help monitor water quality and safeguard the well-being of residents,” he said.

In his project, an optical sensor with a sensing surface containing gold nanoislands is attached to a synthetic copolymer. This sensing surface is highly sensitive and specific to lead ions. When a water sample comes into contact with the sensor, the lead ions will be captured by the copolymer and the lead content can be measured by applying light of appropriate wavelengths to the sensing surface. The result can be obtained within 10 minutes.

The limit of detection of this sensor is much lower than 10 micrograms per litre, the recommended threshold set by the World Health Organisation for lead concentration in drinking water.

“This sensor has great potential to be developed into a portable and low cost on-site detector for lead ions in drinking water,” said Professor Lawrence Wu Chi-man of the Department of Physics and Materials Science and the supervisor of the project.

“Students can learn how to examine their hypotheses and eliminate other possibilities so as to solve practical problems using their creativity. This is useful not only for the final-year projects, but also for work throughout one’s whole life.” Professor Wu added.

Other fascinating projects include a non-destructive testing method for detecting thermal conductivity that can be used to identify rusty gas pipes inside concrete walls as a means of trying to prevent gas leakage incident. This idea was developed by Lai Hoi-yan, a student in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering. Another project is a mobile app for aerial photography, which was developed by Philip Tang Tsz-wang, a student in the Department of Electronic Engineering that allows users to utilise GPS to control a quadcopter, remotely setting up a specific flight path and video recording.


CityU’s Discovery-enriched Curriculum aims at providing students with the opportunity to make an original discovery at CityU. Under this innovative culture, the University has been able to create great inventions which in turn spur further economic growth and social advancement.