HKIAS Distinguished Lecture Series probes new frontiers on Physics

Education | 28 May 2021

The Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study (HKIAS) at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) brings its Distinguished Lecture series back again with groundbreaking researches and ideas on Physics.

Noted as a high-impact dissemination platform worldwide for interdisciplinary research, HKIAS continues to present its Distinguished Lecture Series to showcase innovative ideas that tackle real-world problems. Comprising three online talks, the new series on Physics took place in April and May with support in part from the Kwang Hua Educational Foundation, offering opportunities for motivated scientists to expand the scope of research in the subject. Covering topics from metallic glass, confined quantum states to iron chalcogenide superconductors, the series was a roaring success that attracted scholars and guests to attend the lectures via the video conferencing platform Zoom.

Addressing the grand challenge of glass

With over 30 years of experience in neutron scattering, Professor Xun-Li Wang, Head and Chair Professor of Department of Physics of CityU, kicked off the Series of Physics on April 14 with a lecture titled Structure and Dynamics of Metallic Glass – Atomistic Insights from Neutron and Synchrotron Scattering Experiments.

Listed as one of the Top 125 scientific challenges, the structure and dynamics of glass have long been complex topics. Undertaking the challenge, Professor Wang discussed atomistic insights on metallic glass structure and phonon dynamics, as well as sharing the scientific opportunities in Dongguan, China.

There are two main categories of solids: crystalline and amorphous. The major difference is that the first one comprises a distinctive internal structure and the latter one didn’t. Professor Wang explained that glass is defined as amorphous solid as it is obtained by rapid quenching from the liquid state, bypassing atomic ordering on cooling.

He noted that scattering is a powerful technique to elucidate the structure and dynamics of glass materials as it helps visualize the structure, which gives new insight for understanding the structure and dynamics of metallic glass. “This is an important topic, and there is plenty room at the top on this subject,” he concluded.

Strategies of engineering Confined Quantum States

In response to the demand for low-dimensional physics theory, Professor Ruiqin Zhang, Chair Professor of Physics and Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering of CityU, presented a lecture titled Tuning of Confined Quantum States on April 28. 

“A lot of things can be done on confined quantum states,” noted Professor Zhang. “Over the years, we have been working on engineering the confined quantum states with different strategies.” In particular, he highlighted three strategies, including surface engineering, stress or strain engineering, and the most recent excited state engineering, with relevant experimental results and findings. 

Their researches are helpful for the development of miniaturized and efficient solar hydrogen production equipment with commercialization. It is also expected to promote the application of low-dimensional materials in the fields of optoelectronic, nano-electronics, environment, energy, biology and medicine.

“Recently, we have put more effort into the area of confined catalysis and growth,” he concluded. “We hope to obtain more results and go for practical applications, especially for hydrogen generation.”

Introduction of Iron Chalcogenide Superconductors

The last lecture of the physical series was given by Professor Wei Bao, Chair Professor of Department of Physics of CityU, on May 12 titled Lattice, Charge, Spin and Orbital Aspects of the Iron Chalcogenide Superconductors.

Discovered in a simple metal in 1911, superconductivity is a phenomenon whereby a charge moves through a material without resistance and associated with very cold temperatures.

Professor Bao started with the history of superconductivity and highlighted that the superconductor has zero resistance, perfect diamagnetism, isotope effect and energy gap at Fermi surface.

“Using billions of electrons and atoms to make superconductivity at room temperature has been a dream to us for many decades,” Professor Bao said. The discovery of high-temperature superconductivity in normally insulating cuprate ceramics has given hope and led to an iron age of superconductors.

He then introduced the findings of Hideo Hosono, the first one to discover the iron-based superconductor, and then explored the iron chalcogenide superconductors in lattice, charge, spin and orbital aspects.

World-recognized institution for advanced studies

The HKIAS is committed to advancing CityU and the world academic community by delivering groundbreaking research and encouraging talented young researchers to pursue their scholarly goals. In this connection, the institution has evolved over the past five years into a renowned platform for world-leading visiting scholars to engage in pioneering research and contribute to postdoctoral and postgraduate training.

Debut of HKIAS Research Cluster

Pushing forward the frontiers of interdisciplinary research, HKIAS has adopted the idea of research clusters and recently founded three clusters to encourage research collaboration and deliver high quality research. They are HKIAS Materials Science Cluster, HKIAS Bioscience Cluster, and HKIAS Mathematics Cluster.

Led by HKIAS Senior Fellows, each cluster addresses a significant common problem or set of interrelated questions through individual and collective research. Serving as incubators for larger and longer-term collaborations, the clusters intend to attract external funding and generate significant research outputs. In addition, they also enrich the institute’s distinctive intellectual community by generating partnerships that can spark new approaches and findings, as well as facilitate the mentoring of junior scholars. 

Fostering academic world

To make the world a better place to live in, HKIAS will carry on delivering pioneering researches and nurturing young talented scholars across disciplines, driving the development of CityU and the world academic community.


Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study, City University of Hong Kong



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