HKUST Physicists Awarded First Brillouin Medal for Groundbreaking Research in Phononics


Prof Ping Sheng, Prof Che-ting Chan and Prof Jason Yang of the Department of Physics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) were jointly awarded the inaugural Brillouin Medal by the International Phononics Society (IPS) for their discovery of locally resonant acoustic / elastic metamaterials and related contributions. Prof Sheng and Prof Chan attended the second International Conference on Phononic Crystals / Metamaterials, Phonon Transport & Optomechanics (Phononics 2013) held at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt in early June to receive the Medal and deliver the Award Lecture.

Despite being one of the major pollution sources of our time, low-frequency sound has remained stubbornly hard to be absorbed or deflected due to its long wavelength. The thin-film acoustic metamaterials developed by the HKUST research team has managed to break the mass density law of sound transmission and can also effectively absorb the otherwise hard-to-dissipate low frequency sound. Comprising an elastic membrane decorated with rigid platelets, the material can fully reflect or absorb incoming sound at frequencies ranging from 100 to 1000 Hz. Effective in attenuating sounds and vibrations, the novel metamaterials have a wide range of applications in vehicles, aircraft and aeronautical facilities, buildings and even large-scale infrastructures.

Inaugurated this year and presented biennially, the Brillouin Medal honors a specific seminal contribution in the field of phononics ranging across phononic crystals, acoustic and elastic metamaterials, nanoscale phonon transport, wave propagation in periodic structures, and coupled phenomena involving phonons and related areas. Established in 2009, the International Conference on Phononic Crystals / Metamaterials, Phonon Transport & Optomechanics has been a prime international conference for scientists and engineers across the world to exchange news and views on select central themes in phononics and related disciplines.

The following sets out the three awardees' brief biographies:

Joining HKUST in 1994, Prof Ping Sheng is currently Dr William M. W. Mong Chair Professor of Nanoscience, Fellow of the American Physical Society and Member of the Asia Pacific Academy of Materials. He has published over 375 papers and presented over 290 keynote or invited talks at international meetings and conferences. He also holds 24 US patents. Spanning nanomaterials, soft condensed matter physics and wave functional materials, Prof Sheng has led efforts that resulted in a multitude of research breakthroughs, including the discovery of superconducting behavior in carbon nanotubes, the giant electrorheological effect in suspensions of particles, as well as the invention of locally resonant sonic materials that break the mass density law in shielding low frequency sound. He has also initiated and contributed to the effort that led to the solution of the classical problem of moving contact line in immiscible flows, by using the Onsager's principle of minimum energy dissipation.

Joining HKUST in 1995, Prof Che-ting Chan is currently Chair Professor of the Department of Physics, Executive Director of the University's Institute for Advanced Study and Fellow of the American Physical Society. In 2000, he received the Achievement in Asia Award of the Overseas Chinese Physics Association and in 2010, he was awarded the prestigious Senior Research Fellowship by the Croucher Foundation for his excellent scientific accomplishments. His extensive research interests straddle first principles studies of the electronic, structural and other physical properties of matter, surface physics, photonic band gaps and material physics. As a theoretical physicist, he has generated breakthroughs with regard to photonic crystals and metamaterials wielding superb control over electromagnetic waves and sound waves and established theories in optical illusions and invisible materials. For his excellence in teaching, Prof Chan was conferred the Michael G Gale Medal for Distinguished Teaching in 1999 and an Honorable Mention in Common Core Course Excellence Award in 2013.

Joining HKUST in 1992, Prof Jason Yang has served as Chairman of the Hong Kong Physics Olympiad Committee from 2003 to 2012, and is currently a coach of the Hong Kong International Physics Olympiad team. His main research interests include polymer dynamics, physical properties of ultrathin and nanostructured polymers, physics of II-VI and III-V semiconductor interfaces and quantum structures, and optical properties of novel materials such as carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals. In recent years he has been achieving breakthroughs in a variety of membrane-type phononic metamaterials, including doubly negative metamaterials, super absorptive metamaterials and high damping metamaterials.

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 (From left) Prof Che-ting Chan, Prof Ping Sheng and Prof Jason Yang with their medals.
(From left) Prof Che-ting Chan, Prof Ping Sheng and Prof Jason Yang with their medals.
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