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Research Strengths


Funded Projects Coordinated by HKU

2D Materials Research: Fundamentals Towards Emerging Technologies

This AoE project is an inter-institutional (involving 5 universities) and interdisciplinary one covering physics, applied physics, chemistry, electrical engineering.  The team will seek to sustain Hong Kong’s edge in the field through basic and applied research, with a long-term goal of developing new prototype devices that will have application and commercialization potentials for Hong Kong.

Project Coordinator: Professor W. Yao, Department of Physics


Chemical Biology Approach to Molecular Medicine

In this AoE, the researchers plan to build up chemical biology research platforms to understand fundamental biological processes (such as post-translational modification and oxidative stress) at the molecular level, and to develop novel therapeutic approaches to human diseases.

Project Coordinator: Professor David LI Xiang, Department of Chemistry


Funded Projects Coordinated by other Local Universities

Meta-optics, Meta-acoustics and Meta-devices

The team expects that this AoE project will generate a new platform for knowledge-based intelligent artificial materials and devices which are low energy consumption (“green”) and compatible with advanced manufacture 4.0 in micro- and nano-electronics industrial techniques for wearable or portable innovation.  They trust that local impact and global excellence will be fully demonstrated by the results of this AoE project.  

HKU Co-principal investigator(s)/ Co-Investigator(s): Professor S. Zhang, Department of Physics


Probing the Fundamental Structure of Matter with High Energy Particle Collisions

The proposed project is at the forefront of particle physics research and will enable Hong Kong to take full advantage of emerging opportunities. The project will substantially raise the profile of Hong Kong scientists and their global impact, attract students to STEM subjects, and promote interdisciplinary research in physics, electronics, detector development, computing and data science.

HKU Co-principal investigator(s)/ Co-Investigator(s): Dr. H.C.J. Lee, Department of Physics and Dr. Y. Tu, Department of Physics


Centre for Slope Safety

The solutions provided by the Centre for Slope Safety for coping with future likely rainfall scenarios will benefit the social, economic and academic well-being of HK and they are expected to be adopted by countries, such as Brazil, Italy and Japan, that are threatened by landslides.

HKU Co-principal investigator(s)/ Co-Investigator(s): Dr. C.H. Hau, School of Biological Sciences


Center for Genomic Studies on Plant-Environment Interaction for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security

The focus of this research is to understand how plants adapt to abiotic stresses and how plants interact with microbes. The team choose soybean as our primary crop model due to its importance in sustainable agriculture, their previous successes in soybean genomic studies, the availability of our soybean genomic sequence database, unique germplasms and genetic populations. New knowledge and technologies acquired through the proposed research can then be applied to other crops in delineating the underlying mechanisms of plant-environment interactions.

HKU Co-principal investigator(s)/ Co-Investigator(s): Professor M.L. Chye, School of Biological Sciences and Dr. B.L. Lim, School of Biological Sciences


Centre for Organelle Biogenesis and Function

The present proposal of this AoE focuses on understanding the Biogenesis and Function of three organelles: Golgi, TGN and EXPO. The research will not only address the fundamental questions concerning organelle biogenesis and function in important biological processes, such as cell wall formation and stress signaling pathways in plants, but will also have potential applications for the biotechnology industry in Hong Kong and China to improve the value of plants as biofuel feedstocks and to enhance crop productivity in high-stress environments.

HKU Co-principal investigator(s)/ Co-Investigator(s): Professor M.L. Chye, School of Biological Sciences



Funded Projects Coordinated by HKU

Institute of Molecular Functional Materials

The AoE aims to bring together inter-institutional efforts from the area of synthetic, polymer, material and physical chemistry, and interdisciplinary expertise through national/international collaboration in physics and device engineering towards developing an international eminent research centre in the area of molecular functional materials towards addressing energy-related issues.

Project Coordinator: Professor V.W.W. Yam, Department of Chemistry


Theory, Modeling, and Simulation of Emerging Electronics

This AoE aims to develop next generation multi-scale electronic design automation (EDA) tools that combine the atomistic simulation of individual devices, the coarse-grained modeling of integrated circuitries and simulation of electric signals propagation and interference.

Project Coordinator: Professor G. Chen, Department of Chemistry


Centre for Marine Environmental Research and Innovative Technology

This AoE conducted research to develop innovative technologies for early detection, assessment, prediction and control of impacts arising from hypoxia (low oxygen), endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and emerging chemicals of concern (ECCs) in the marine environment.

Project Coordinator: Professor S.S. Wu, School of Biological Sciences


The Institute of Molecular Technology for Drug Discovery and Synthesis

This AoE combined the expertise of leading academics with high international repute in chemistry and life sciences. The mission was to implement world-class science and technology in the area of drug discovery and synthesis.

Project Coordinator: Professor C.M. Che, Department of Chemistry


Funded Projects Coordinated by other Local Universities 

Institute of Network Coding

This Area of Excellence, a continuation of a Hong Kong's story of success, is expected to help Hong Kong to elevate her research and higher education as a whole to the world level, and to fuel her economy by creating completely new technologies related to Network Coding.

HKU Co-principal investigator(s)/ Co-Investigator(s): Dr. G. Han, Department of Mathematics


Center for Plant and Agricultural Biotechnology (Previously known as Plant and Fungal Biotechnology)

HKU Co-principal investigator(s)/ Co-Investigator(s): Professor M.L. Chye, School of Biological Sciences and Dr. W.K. Yip, School of Biological Sciences

Challenges in Organic Photo-Voltaics and Light Emitting Diodes—A Concerted Multi-Disciplinary and Multi-Institutional Effort

This project aims to address energy issues for the development of a sustainable environment. It focuses on organic photovoltaics (OPVs) for solar energy conversion to generate alternative sources of clean renewable energy, and organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), which are recognised as a viable candidate for developing and implementing a more efficient solid-state lighting system.


Towards Carbon Neutrality: Catalysing Water and Carbon Dioxide to Green Resource Carriers

Directed by Professor Zheng Xiao GUO, Department of Chemistry

The research takes a multi-disciplinary approach that will help achieve carbon neutrality worldwide by developing technologies that could transform earth-abundant molecules into clean fuels and chemicals. 

Marine Pollution

HKU is also one of six collaborating local universities for the SKL in Marine Pollution, established in 2009 and hosted by City University of Hong Kong.

The mission of the SKLMP is to protect the marine environment of Hong Kong and South China by identifying major threats such as algal toxins and contaminants of emerging environmental concern, and developing tools and technologies to address and solve these problems.

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Synthetic Chemistry

Directed by Professor C.M. Che, Department of Chemistry

The two main objectives of this SKL are to (1) create or identify novel chemical entities that are of fundamental interest with regard to structure and bonding and/or have unique properties that have useful applications; and (2) devise/develop new environmentally friendly methods for the synthesis of chemical entities of importance to society. The SKL is set up in collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and is partnering with the SKL of Organometallic Chemistry of the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry.

Chemical Geodynamics 

Co-Directed by Professor M. Sun, Department of Earth Sciences; and Professor Y.G. Xu (GIG, CAS)

The Joint Laboratory undertakes research projects on the lithospheric evolution, in order to unravel the mechanism of magmatism, mineralisation and environmental change caused by orogenesis and mantle plume.  The aim is to develop into a concrete earth science community in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area to study deep earth and surficial processes globally and tackle problems related to the exploitation of natural resources, environmental change, urban development, geohazards and pollution in the region. The Joint Laboratory is set up in collaboration with the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry (GIG).


Chemical Synthesis

Co-Directed by Professor C.M. Che, Department of Chemistry; Professor X. Hou (SIOC, CAS); and Professor H.N.C. Wong (CUHK)

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Joint Laboratory on Chemical Synthesis was established in 1999 and is currently located at the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry (SIOC), CAS. In collaboration with research groups from HKU, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and SIOC, the Joint Laboratory aims to cultivate talents from Hong Kong and the Mainland. The research focuses on the design of chiral ligands and its application in asymmetric catalysis, synthesis of natural products, structural chemistry and catalysis of metal complexes, molecular design and molecular recognition, self-assembly performance study, catalytic polymerisation, macromolecule assembly, computational chemistry and physical organic chemistry.


New Materials

Co-Directed by Professor C.M. Che, Department of Chemistry; and Professor C.H. Tung (TIPC, CAS)

This Joint Laboratory is dedicated to providing young CAS scientists and researchers at HKU with a well-equipped research platform for fostering interdisciplinary research at HKU and promoting national and international collaborations. The objective of the Joint Laboratory is to develop innovative photo-functional molecular materials and practical photo-catalysts for light to chemical conversion. The research programmes entail synthetic chemistry, photochemistry and excited state dynamics of molecular materials, hybrid materials and artificial photosynthetic systems. The Laboratory is set up in collaboration with the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry (TIPC), Beijing.

Chemical Biology for Drug Discovery 

HKU has become a centre of world-class research in drug discovery and synthesis, with such achievements as developing anti-cancer metal compounds, fluorescent probes to detect reactive oxygen species in cells and the world’s first model of chemical genetics in virology. The scientists behind these discoveries will combine their expertise to create new high-level platforms leading to the development of new molecular medicines.


Functional Materials for Molecular Electronics 

HKU scientists have discovered a number of new molecular and nanoscopic functional materials, such as organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), organic solar cells and nanomachineries. They will build on that success to develop new functional materials for the OLED display industry that are internationally competitive, as well as high-performance light-harvesting materials and new functional materials for various molecular electronic, robotic, memory and sensing applications.


Sustainable Urban Water Environment

Rapid global urbanisation, industralisation and population growth in recent decades, particularly in Asia, have resulted in accelerating demands for clean potable water and treated wastewater for reuse. Current technologies for water and wastewater treatments were developed more than 50 years ago and are inadequate for the task. This theme will focus on the grand challenge of developing innovative technologies that can provide a sustainable urban water supply and control water pollution.


Two-Dimensional Materials 

Two-dimensional (2-D) materials have the potential to revolutionise micro-electronics and information technology. Their unparalleled flexibility and controllability give them the potential to perform more efficiently than existing materials and to enable the discovery of new functional devices. Our scientists have been at the forefront globally in exploring 2-D materials and seek to expand their investigation and possible applications.