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NTU assistant professor wins Young Scientist Award

A 34-year-old Physics lecturer from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) received the Young Scientist Award for his research on metal oxide nanostructures and graphene, which are used to develop nanodevices and harvest energy.

Dr Yu Ting, who won in the Physical, Information and Engineering Services category of the Young Scientist Award, is an Assistant Professor with the Division of Physics and Applied Physics at NTU's School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

He has been studying and working in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology for the past decade. His research focuses on the fabrication of metal oxide nanostructures and graphene (a single layer of carbon atoms), the investigation of their physical and biochemical properties, as well as the development of nanodevices. He has developed a method for the synthesis of metal oxide nanostructures which is substrate-friendly, low-cost, and applicable on a large scale. This method is now widely used by other researchers working in the field, which may potentially lead to novel high-yield, low-cost metal oxide nanostructures for practical nanodevice applications.

In addition, Dr Yu's work on the assembly of nanowires using optical tweezers has attracted the attention of Harvard and Berkeley professors. Based on his method, a powerful probe has been developed for the study of nanophotonics (the study of the behaviour of light on the nanometre scale).

In his study of graphene, Dr Yu has achieved many "firsts". For example, his studies have led to new approaches for engineering the electronic structure and properties of graphene. This has received attention from the Condensed Matter Physics Group at The University of Manchester, widely regarded as the leader of the graphene research community.

Dr Yu's achievements have gained international recognition in the nanoscience and nanotechnology community. He has published more than 85 papers in top international journals, and these papers have been cited more than 820 times. He has also contributed to two book chapters and has been awarded one patent.

Over the past three years, Dr Yu has received close to S$3.5m worth of research grants. In 2008, his team won the Nanyang Award for Research and Innovation, a prestigious NTU award presented in recognition of their outstanding research achievements.

Despite receiving this latest accolade, Dr Yu is clearly not resting on his laurels. He is currently working on two research projects fabricating high-quality and large-yield metal oxide nanostructures, and tailoring the electronic structure of graphene for nanoelectronic applications.

"For the metal oxide nanostructures, my team and I will focus on two aspects control and novelty. We want to control the quality and assembly of nanostructures by making use of new methods, models and systems," he said.

"As for graphene, we are already able to grow large pieces of it, which is the very first requirement for practical applications. We have also demonstrated two effective strategies to tailor the electronic structure of graphene. We will be studying more methods to optimise these parameters," added Dr Yu.

"Our work could possibly have useful applications for nanoelectronics, photonics and phononics," said Dr Yu. "For example, using graphene, we could possibly build an ultrafast computer where the electron could move about 200 times faster than silicon, which is currently used in computer chips," he explained. "Another application could be using graphene as electrodes in flexible display screens or solar cells because of its high conductivity and transparency."

Driven by a burning desire to see the world rely more on green energy, Dr Yu hopes his research efforts will result in the harvesting of green energy such as developing ultracapacitors, super-Lithium-ion batteries and wide-range solar cells.

"I hope the nanomaterials fabricated in my lab, and the methodologies developed and models invented by my team can be used in real nanodevices," he said.

"I also look forward to continue educating the young, introducing them to the whole big world of new physics, and developing in them a love for exploring the possibilities of science," said Dr Yu. "Hopefully one of my students several would be great will one day win the Nobel Prize!"

Dr Yu and the other two Young Scientist Award recipients received their awards from the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, at the President's Science and Technology Awards Ceremony held at the Istana on 28 September 2009.


Contact: Edgar Lee
Nanyang Technological University

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