Six PolyU innovations honoured in Geneva’s Invention Expo

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) showcased an array of innovations which range from stem cell research to energy-saving device and RFID technology. These breakthroughs have impressed overseas audience at the 38th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva in Switzerland.

Group photo of Mr Nicholas Yeung (fourth from right), PolyU Executive Vice President, with project inventors

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) today (24 June) showcased an array of innovations which range from stem cell research to energy-saving device and RFID technology. These breakthroughs have impressed overseas audience at the 38th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva in Switzerland.

This year not too many PolyU researchers were able to make a special trip to the exhibition venue because of the standstill in air traffic arising from the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Despite this setback, they have brought home two Gold Medals, three Silver Medals and one Bronze Medal in this international event.

The winning entries presented by PolyU and their respective inventors are listed and briefly described as follows:

(1) Gold Medal with Jury's Commendation: Micro-Encapsulated Phase Change Material (MPCM) Thermal Storage System
Inventor: Professor Niu Jianlei, Department of Building Services Engineering

Thermal storage systems are commonly found in modern buildings and skyscrapers. Such system typically uses inexpensive off-peak electric power, solar energy or waste heat, or cooling tower to meet energy storage requirements. With the sophisticated use of "New Thermal Energy Storage (TES) material" replacing water or ice-slurry, PolyU researchers have greatly improved the performance of modern thermal storage system and thus achieve higher level of energy efficiency.

The MPCM Thermal Storage System developed by Professor Niu thrives on the use of a nanotechnology-based thermal energy storage material known as the "Micro-Encapsulated Phase Change Material". When it is mixed with water, milky slurry is formed, and it can function as thermal energy storage and heat transfer working fluid to replace plain water or ice-slurry now commonly used in building cooling systems. Depending on local climatic conditions, the new material can also eliminate the use of electricity-driven chillers, which consume the most electricity in current air-conditioning systems.

This breakthrough is the fruit of interdisciplinary research collaboration between PolyU Department of Building Services Engineering, PolyU Institute of Textiles and Clothing, Tsinghua University, and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. This research is supported by the Government's Innovation and Technology Fund and Competitive Earmarked Research Grant of the Research Grants Council.

(2) Gold Medal: Discovery of Polyomnics - an Innovative Class of Cell Regenerative Agents
Inventor: Professor Andrew T. Chiu, Chair Professor of Pharmacology, Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology

This breakthrough by Professor Chiu and his team works by inducing human somatic cells to become pluripotent stem cells (iPS) with the use of pharmacological small molecules. The proprietary chemical technology for the reprogramming of terminally-differentiated somatic cells into patient-specific SM-iPSCs will be used as a primary mechanism for derivation of any specialized cells or tissues (e.g. neurons, hepatocytes, fibroblasts, etc.) and for the correction of genetic defects. The transformed cells can then be used for cellular therapy, tissue engineering, drug development, or for basic research on the mechanism of disease evolution.

The new class of small molecules developed by PolyU researchers is collectively known as "Polyomnics". These small molecules are pharmaceutically and clinically usable, and they are easy and convenient to use without extensive manipulation. The new technology also shows a higher incidence of reprogramming and might reduce the potential risk of mutagenesis and tumor formation encountered by viral-transgene method.

(3) Silver Medal: E-Clustered Prototype Assessment System (EPAS)
Inventors: Dr Roger Ng Keng-po, Institute of Textiles and Clothing; Mr Brian Lee Yu-hin and Dr Eva Yuen, School of Design

In the world of fashion, designers and merchandisers often come across the difficulty of mix and match with different choice of materials for the development of new apparel product. With the use of E-Clustered Prototype Assessment System (EPAS) developed by PolyU researchers, the decision-making process can be made much simpler and in a timely manner without long-distance travelling.

EPAS enables remote examination of physical sample by users in widespread geographical locations to join in discussion. Unlike web conferencing system, EPAS supports physical sample examination with its high fidelity video stream and images showing the delicacy of fabric with accurate colour spectrum and level of brightness. More importantly, live fitting from different perspectives can be displayed at the same time. This breakthrough is the joint effort of PolyU Institute of Textiles and Clothing and School of Design.

(4) Silver Medal: Flexible RFID Encoder and Decoder (FRED)
Inventor: Dr Henry Chan, Department of Computing

This innovation is an integrated software tool specially designed for the efficient encoding and decoding of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag data. It also supports RFID tag printing, reading and other processing functions. It offers major applications in air-freight logistics management such as air cargo processing. It has been developed in relation to the project entitled "Enhancing the Competitiveness of the Hong Kong Air Freight Forwarding Industry Using RFID and Software Agent Technologies" funded by the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF).

FRED uses a flexible XML-based data encoding scheme and a data compaction method which allows it to encode RFID tag data efficiently and according to a user specified data format. It also provides an integrated package for specifying data formats, entering data and
importing/exporting data files. With its flexibility and user-friendly data specification tool, it can also be used to support many other RFID-based applications.

(5) Silver Medal: Rapid Ultrasonic Decalcifier
Inventors: Dr Guo Xia, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences; Professor Zheng Yongping, Department of Health Technology and Informatics

This breakthrough is the collaboration between Department of Rehabilitation Sciences as well as Department of Health Technology and Informatics which is based on a novel technique designed to accelerate the process of bone decalcification for pathological diagnosis or bone-grafting in orthopaedic or plastic surgeries. Bone decalcification, or the removal of calcium ions from the bone, is a key step for making bones soft and easy to be processed into thin sections for microscopic investigation. While traditional procedure is complicated and takes months to complete, the new method developed can achieve decalcification within a few days or even hours.

The Rapid Ultrasonic Decalcifier works on a custom-made ultrasound machine and foaming agent. The patented system is built-in with an end point detection and temperature controlling function which prevents deterioration of biological properties of decalcifying bone.

(6) Bronze Medal: An Intelligent Context-aware Decision Support System for Container Terminal Monitoring
Inventor: Professor Eric Ngai, Department of Management and Marketing

This intelligent context-aware decision support system is designed and developed by Department of Management and Marketing, and Department of Logistics and Maritime Studies for monitoring the real-time status and locations of equipment and trucks in a container terminal, such that just-in-time decisions on the movement of rubber-tired gantry cranes and on truck allocation can easily be made in the container terminal. It employs wireless sensor technology and a differential global positioning system (DGPS) to determine the locations of containers and equipment in a container terminal at a low cost. It also collects various real-time data such as the positions of trucks and the queue lengths under quay cranes to support the terminal operations accurately. As a result, containers can be loaded or discharged in a shorter lead time, thus saving manpower for monitoring and tracking.

Under the patronage of the Swiss Federal Government and the City Government of Geneva, the 38th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva was held from 21 to 25 April 2010. Since many flights were cancelled because of volcanic eruption, the exhibition recorded a drop of visitors by 15 percent to 52,000, as compared to 72,000 visitors last year. For more details about the 38th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, please refer to its official website at URL:

Press contact: Mr Andrew Young
Tel: (852) 3400 2800
e-mail: [email protected]

Published: 26 Jun 2010

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