Advanced materials can bring about subtle but profound changes to our lives. These materials, previously not available, are specially created or engineered to be superior and more efficient than existing materials, and to be used in areas where they could not previously be applied. Advanced materials are significant for humankind as they can meet the newly arising needs in today’s ever-changing world.
Professor Cheah Kok Wai joined the Department of Physics, HKBU, in 1990 and has been Chair Professor since 2010. He obtained his Bachelor of Science (Honour) degree in Physics, then Master of Science degree in Science of Materials, and Doctor of Philosophy degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College, London. Professor Cheah is one of the few academics who have solid industry exposure. After receiving his doctoral degree, he spent 10 years in UK industry, including 8 years in Astrium Space, working on projects including meteorological satellites and the International Space Station.
Among his most notable works is the invention of ArmoGlass, a thin sapphire film that is ultra-hard, non-fragile, light and easy to process, therefore perfect for producing ultra-hard anti-scratch covers for touch screen devices. As a result of creating this revolutionary product, Professor Cheah received HK$2 million from the HKSAR Government via the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) to start up a company, Cathay Photonics Limited, to facilitate knowledge transfer to the community. In 2016 at the 44th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, the world’s largest event of its kind, ArmoGlass stood out from 1,000 projects from 40 countries and won the Grand Prix Award.
Due to his diverse academic and industry background, Professor Cheah’s research focuses naturally on advanced materials, in which his broad interdisciplinary knowledge is fully applied. His research interests include linear and non-linear optical properties of organic complexes, plasmonic nano-structures, organic and inorganic phosphors and organic electronics. In his early days at HKBU, Professor Cheah conducted research on the luminescence property of porous silicon, and based on this work the silicon-based ultra-violet light emitting diode was developed. These ground-breaking discoveries led not only to a number of publications but also three US patents, one of which being the first patent for an HKBU staff member. By June 2017, Professor Cheah possessed 12 US patents, 2 Chinese patents and 1 patent under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Over the years, Professor Cheah’s distinguished scholarly work has secured over 45 grants from the Research Grants Council, the ITC, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Croucher Foundation, HKBU Honorary Fellow Mr Allan Kwong and from industry.
Professor Cheah is the founder and Director of the Institute of Advanced Materials at HKBU. A prolific scholar, Professor Cheah has presented or published more than 290 papers at international conferences and in top-tier journals. The strong impact of his publications is evidenced by his exceptionally high citation count on Google Scholar of over 7,800. He became a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, UK, in 2013.
“With new technology arising every day, we need to keep on acquiring new knowledge to meet our society’s needs. Social progress and education are interrelated. Being an entrepreneur, I wish I can help nurture our future generations. I hope the establishment of this Endowed Chair of Advanced Materials can help promote advanced research and contribute to the well-being of our society, our country and humankind.”
Interview with Professor Cheah Kok Wai