Our life at IPO

Interdisciplinary Research


HKUST Scientists Showed Virus-like Capsules via Self-assembling of Peptide/DNA Nanococoons

Prof. Ying Chau of Division of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr Rong Ni of Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, have designed short peptides that self-assemble with DNA to form virus-like capsules which could offer a new potential route to transport genes or small-molecule drugs into cells. 

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Air Quality Improvement Project in the Pearl River Delta Region

Institute for the Environment and Division of Environment‘s scientific team will lead an Air Quality Improvement Project in the Pearl River Delta Region to adopt a regional approach to quantify the sources of PM2.5 which has  a major impact on health and visibility deterioration. This project is the first time that environmental authorities of Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macao conduct complementary and coordinated research together to allow a holistic understanding of the regional PM2.5 problem. It also demonstrates how coordinated application research by regional governments with clear objective can help environmental policy-making.  It serves as a good example for other city clusters in China. 


Mini Pulsed Electric Field Device for Water Disinfection

A multidisciplinary research team led by Prof. King Lun Yeung (CBME/ENVR) and Prof. Joseph Kwan (ENVR) has invented a low voltage pulsed electric field device which could kill more than 90 percent of bacteria within a few seconds.  The technology is a possible way to help control the spread of water-borne diseases such as Legionellosis caused by microbial contamination of water.


Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)

Prof. Alexis Lau has helped develop the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in collaboration with the School of Public Health and Community Care of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Starting by the end of Dec 2013, the AQHI replaces the Air Pollution Index (API) as the index to inform the public about the local air quality in Hong Kong. The AQHI is an improvement over the API as its specific health advice for the public is based on local health studies, and it has much lesser time-delay than the API.


Supersite Project focusing on Real Time Measurements and Physical and Chemical Characterization of PM and VOC at HKUST and at Mong Kok EPD station

Division of Environment faculty members have completed the supersite project focusing on real time measurements and physical and chemical characterization of PM and VOC at HKUST and at Mong Kok EPD station with subsequent use of the data for advanced air quality modeling and source apportionments. Many of these measurements are first of its kind in Hong Kong and they serve as inputs for source apportionment analysis, closure analysis of hygroscopic growth and CCN activation as well as for modeling development. In particular, real time measurements provide diurnal profiles of pollutant compositions and related characteristics, heretofore not available by filter-based measurements alone, for less ambiguous source apportionment of traffic and cooking emissions and secondary PM, including SOA. These data allow us to verify our models rigorously for high time resolution comparison.

The followings are the major scientific findings of this project:

  1. HKUST is an ideal site for investigating regional air pollution, based on long term detailed filter-based and real time aerosol characterization. Overwhelming majority (>75%) of the PM observed at this site are secondary in nature. They are likely transported from outside Hong Kong. Secondary PM observed at HKUST can be formed by both photochemical and aqueous phase reactions.

  2. Cooking emissions contribute more to organic aerosol in Mong Kok than traffic does. This conclusion is supported by the clear diurnal profiles of cooking organic aerosol, which show AMS peaks even stronger than those from traffic at meal times.

  3. The inclusion of representative size distribution of aerosols, volatility basis set of organic aerosols and the aqueous phase NO2 oxidation of SO2 have significantly improved the model predictions of PM2.5 and its compositions to the level that it can be used for forecasting purposes.


Using Tunable Cell Microenvironments to Reveal the Architecture and Mechanics of Epithelial Cells

An interdisciplinary team led by Profs. Pingbo Huang (LIFS and BME), Levent Yobas (ECE and BME), and Penger Tong (PHYS and BME) is developing a collaborative research project on epithelial biology. The apical-basal polarization of epithelial cells is critical for the functions of these cells. However, little is known about how the intracellular polarization machinery is controlled by the extracellular environment. Recently, this team has made a breakthrough in inventing a novel cell-culture model system by using micropatterning techniques. This system enables them to address several important but previously unapproachable questions in epithelial polarity and morphogenesis in development. They will study these questions by using an interdisciplinary approach that combines cell biology, molecular biology, engineering, and physics. Their studies will generate novel cell-culture and force-sensing model systems that should have a profound impact on the fields of cell biology and tissue engineering.


Development of Organic Electrochemical Transistor Array for Cardiac Action Potential Sensing and Related Drug Screening

Prof. I-Ming Hsing (BME), Prof. Hongkai Wu (CHEM/BME), Prof. Ronald A. Li (HKU) under the joint grant support of theme based research, are developing organic electrochemical transistor (OECT) array based system for recording cardiac action potentials. The team takes full advantage of the microfabrication facilities at HKUST and the human embryonic stem cells (hESC) derived cardiomyocytes from HKU. The main objective of this project is to develop novel OECT device for recording action potentials from hESC derived cardiomyocytes and use this integrated system for cardiologic drug screening. The team has achieved excellent results from cardiomyocyte-like HL-1 cells as a proof of concept work. Such technology has the potential to be used in a broader area for electrophysiological signals’ sensing and stimulation.