PolyU research projects in advanced manufacturing, new materials and new energy receive funding from RAISe+ Scheme

The Innovation and Technology Commission of the HKSAR government yesterday held the Research, Academic and Industry Sectors One-plus (RAISe+) Scheme Signing Ceremony and announced the results of the Scheme’s first round of review.

Two research projects from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have been awarded RAISe+ funding, showcasing the University’s commitment to promoting excellence in research and innovation, and to creating impact in the community by translating its world-class scientific research into real-world applications.

Prof. Christopher CHAO, PolyU Vice President (Research and Innovation), congratulated the PolyU research teams, stating, “We are pleased with the results of the RAISe+ Scheme and are thrilled to receive this recognition and support. The funding will expedite the commercialisation of these projects, enabling our researchers to develop innovative solutions, forge stronger industry partnerships and ultimately translate their research outcomes into real-world impact. The University will continue to make impactful contributions for the benefit of Hong Kong, the Nation and the world. Leveraging our research strengths and expertise, PolyU will play a pivotal role in developing Hong Kong into an international innovation and technology hub.”

The two funded projects are:

Energy-Efficient Liquid Cooling System for Data Centres (Advanced Manufacturing)

The project is led by Prof. WANG Zuankai, Associate Vice President (Research and Innovation), Kuok Group Professor in Nature-Inspired Engineering, and Chair Professor of Nature-Inspired Engineering of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The success and progress of our society’s businesses and innovations hinge on data and data centres. These centres, serving as crucial foundations for Artificial intelligence (AI), big data and other technologies, contribute to 3% of global energy consumption. Notably, cooling systems alone consume a significant 40% of this. Existing cooling methods are inefficient, expensive, harmful to the environment and contribute to substantial carbon emissions. Hence, the pivotal step towards achieving energy-saving and emission-reduction objectives in data centres lies in effectively reducing the energy consumption of cooling systems.

This project aims to commercialise the team’s Energy-Efficient Liquid Cooling System (ELCS) to address the very significant energy consumption by data centres for more sustainable cooling.

ELCS resolves the centuries-old Leidenfrost challenge using innovative nano-engineered surfaces, i.e., structured thermal armour. The first innovative aspect of ELCS is to utilise phase change cooling principles, whereby liquid coolant is transported to the hot area through heat pipes. The coolant undergoes vaporisation, carrying away the heat, which is then condensed back into liquid for reuse, achieving nearly zero-energy cooling. The System is expected to achieve high heat fluxes of ~1,000 W/cm², even at high temperatures of up to 1,000 ℃, which outperforms traditional methods. Another innovative aspect of ELCS is the integration of AI and the Intelligence of Things, enabling real-time monitoring and optimisation of the System’s thermal performance.

Pilot and Mass Production of Next-Generation Composite Current Collectors for Mobility and Energy Storage Batteries (New Materials and New Energy)

The project is led by Prof. Zijian ZHENG, Chair Professor of Soft Materials and Devices and Professor of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology.

This project aims to develop an ultrathin, ultralight, flexible and durable composite film to serve as a current collector (CC) for Li-ion batteries (LIBs) and future solid-state Li batteries, aiming at boosting their energy density. The CC is an essential component for the conduction of electrons during the charge/discharge process in LIBs.

However, CCs do not contribute to the energy storage in batteries. Therefore, reducing their thickness and weight is an efficient approach to improving the energy density of batteries, a consistent goal in the battery industry over the past decades. Currently, commercial LIBs use copper and aluminum foils as CCs in the anode and the cathode, respectively, the densities of which are thus high. Further reduction of the thickness or weight of metal foils has encountered a bottleneck due to mechanical reliability and processibility. The composite CC developed by the group is 80%~85% lighter and 65%~80% thinner than the current metal foils, with a cost reduction of 40%~60%. Importantly, compared to metal foils, the composite CC better maintains electron and thermal conductivity, chemical and electrochemical stability, and compatibility with various electrode materials. It increases the gravimetric energy density of LIBs by 20%~25% and the volumetric energy density by 9%~12%.

Inaugurated in 2023, the RAISe+ Scheme aims to provide funding, on a matching basis, for at least 100 research teams from universities funded by the University Grants Committee which demonstrate strong potential to evolve into successful startups. Each approved project will receive funding support ranging from HK$10 million to HK$100 million.

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