Research and Development at NTHU

1.  Introduction

In the past 57 years, National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) has established itself as one of the top research universities in Taiwan. Currently NTHU has seven colleges, i.e., Colleges of Science, Engineering, Nuclear Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, Life Sciences, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as well as Technology Management. In addition, there is a Commission of General Education to coordinate the basic education curricula for the entire university.

2.  Current Accomplishments of Key Research Fields

The University administration provides a stimulating and nurturing environment within which our faculty can offer quality teaching and conduct innovative research. With the special funding obtained from the Ministry of Education, NTHU is upgrading teaching and research with the goal of ascending into the rank of world leading universities. NTHU has selected, after careful deliberation on our research strengths, to concentrate in five major research areas. These are: 1. Fundamental and Applied Sciences of Matters, 2. Interactive Nano-X Sciences, 3. Low Carbon Energy, 4. Connectomics, and 5. Advanced Manufacturing and Service Management. In each and every chosen area, NTHU has already accomplished a great deal. The followings are notable results:

(1) Fundamental and Applied Sciences of Matters

The Center is organized mainly around research groups from both National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University (NCTU). The combined research outputs in chemistry and physics are among the best in Taiwan and can be ranked within top 40 in the world in terms of journal publications.  According to the database of Essential Science Indicators (ESI), the combined number of publications for NTHU and NCTU in chemistry from 2002 to 2012 is ranked 36 in the world, which is promoted by 2 steps relative to ranked 38 from 2000 to 2010.  In physics, the rank is 23, which is promoted by 4 steps relative to 27. If only outputs from core physics and chemistry departments are counted, the leadership of integrated NTHU and NCTU in Taiwan becomes more evident, especially in the past few years. Recently, NTHU and NCTU have published 6 papers in Science (with corresponding authors in four of them) and 3 papers in Nature (with corresponding authors in all three). These performance indicators establish the Center as the leading role of the basic and applied matter science research center in Taiwan and indicate that the Center is internationally competitive.

(2) Interactive Nano-X Sciences

The Interactive Nano-X Research Center (INX Center) was established to provide a platform to cultivate cross-domain cooperative R&D environment. Its research focuses encompass four major areas, including nano materials, nano / micro electromechanical, nano optoelectronic and electronic components and nano biomedical science and technology. One major essence of the center is to seek and develop close interdisciplinary interaction and collaboration within as well as between the four research areas. It is built on the foundation of nano-materials, metrology of testing and characterization techniques and expands toward developing key technologies for synthesizing new nano-materials, fabricating critical next-generation nano optoelectronic and electronic components and creating advanced nano/micro electromechanical systems particularly gearing to nano-biomedical applications.
Another equally important mission of this center is to not only continue our existing industrial collaboration relationship but also expand its cooperation with more domestic manufacturers in technical consultation, personal training, OEM by providing qualified engineers from companies, large or small, open assess to equipment and other services in the center. Adjacent to the nearby Industrial Technology Research Institute and Taiwan science and technology center in Hsinchu Science Park, our center plays a vital role in enhancing an industry/academia/research institution cohesive collaboration to promote research innovation and key technology development and, ultimately, to further enhance our industrial global competitiveness.

(3) Low Carbon Energy

The Low Carbon Energy Research Center focuses on proactive research activities in green energy technology, nuclear power, smart grid, and low-carbon energy technology policy and promotion strategy of energy industry.

Green Energy technology
On green energy technology, NTHU researchers have dedicated in the past ten years to the development of phosphorescent organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). Recently, NTHU chemists have started to use the related design concept in synthesizing a new series of highly efficient, thiocyanate-free sensitizer for dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) applications. One recent paper dealing with this topic has paved a new avenue for DSSC research in the future.  NTHU researchers have also demonstrated CIGS solar cells of the efficiency 12% without post-selenization and AR coating.  The team collaborates with the world-class domestic target fabrication company to develop the key technology for the sputtering from quaternary CIGS targets. A research team is also working on high efficient solar to photosynthetic bio-hydrogen production in micro environment characterized by high resolution environmental electron microscopy.
 

The NTHU research team on fuel cells focuses on developing key technologies in methanol reforming, nano/micro flow control, proton exchange membrane, low CO-sensitive nano-catalysts and system integration. Moreover, the team members also explore the fundamental transport phenomena related to the system to enable the design for efficient heat and water management in the reforming type methanol fuel cell. With the integration of all these efforts, a 10-100 W level low-temperature methanol-reforming type low-CO-sensitive PEMFC can be realized.

A NTHU team explores innovative technology to effectively use the low speed wind energy for transportation. They design a smart mechanical devise to convert the energy from low speed wind into compressed air with high pressure. The high pressure air is then used to drive vehicle such as motorcycles and beach vehicles.

As for energy storage, the NTHU research group in developing the next generation of “super-capacitors” is among the topnotch teams around the world. The team has developed a powerful strategy for the fabricating the nitrogen-doped grapheme sheets with good crystallinity, high specific surface area, and high percentages of pyridinic/graphitic-nitrogen structures with great potential to serve as an electrode material of a supercapacitor.

Nuclear Safety Technology
With several NSTPE projects on going, NTHU research on nuclear safety focuses on the safety analyses using system codes approved by regulatory authority and CFD analysis for certain local phenomena as well as experimental studies on certain physical phenomena during a nuclear accident to understand the physical mechanisms and to verify the numerical simulations.  In particular, lessons learned from the Fukushima accident are exercised. NTHU had helped Taipower Company to establish the so-called Ultimate Response Guidelines (URGs) through its safety analyses.

Smart Microgrid Technology
NTHU recently completed a project on low carbon energy is entitled “Research and Development of Key Technologies for Intelligent Micro Grid.” The main purpose of this project is to respond the National Energy Policy and make efforts on the R&D of Key Technologies for Intelligent Micro Grid. Its contents mainly consist of four subprojects. The first is entitled “R&D of High Step Up Ratio DC Conversion Interface Technology”. A DC Voltage Quadruples is developed for achieving high step up voltage gain, automatic current sharing, low voltage stress, high efficiency. The second subproject is entitled “R&D of High Efficiency LED Driver Technology with Wireless Dimming Control capability”. The major contributions include a High Step Down Ratio DC Conversion Interface and the low cost, low power consumption Wireless Communication Interface with Dimming Control capability. As to the third subproject, it is focused on the “R&D of a Fully Digital Seamless Grid Paralleling as well as Real and Reactive Power Control technology”. Novel isolated version DC to AC converter is developed to achieve the objective of seamless and smooth control between stand alone and grid connected operation modes. Finally, the fourth subproject is focused on the “R&D of grid system integration, monitoring and coordinate control technologies.” Optimal Power Flow Control of Multi-Converter System is studied and a Management Platform based on Wireless Communications Network is developed for monitoring and control.

Low-Carbon Energy Technology Policy and Promotion Strategy of Energy Industry
NTHU has also been working on the energy policy and law regarding climate change. Moreover, some of the team members have also been working on the health effect of using bio-diesel as well as public policy regarding inter-local-government collaboration on energy issues in USA. The use of bio-diesel may reduce significantly the pollutants such as CO, SOx, PHA,nPHA, etc. The reduction of such pollutants may result in beneficial effects on human health, thus reduce the medical expenses.

(4) Connectomics

In the core project, aiming to reconstruct a virtual fly brain called FlyCircuit, the NTHU Connectomics research team has collected approximately 10% of the total brain neurons and counting, constructed a digital atlas and proposed the concept of local processing unit within the brain (Current Biology, 2011). The New York Times echoed this publication and commented “Biologists see this atlas of the fly brain as a first step toward understanding the human brian…” In EurekAlert, “The 3D neural connectome for Drosophila brain to neuroscience is genomics to genetics”. A public accessible web site (http://www.flycircuit.tw) is in service. Several patents resulting from this study (including the technologies for 3D image process, standardization, and database construction) have been awarded. In the present phase of “Toward World-Class Universities Project”, new discoveries of neurons for long term memory were reported in Science (2012) and in PNAS (2013); the CO2 avoidance behavior control were published in Science (2013). Also, a comprehensive map of the central complex indicating directions of information flow in neurons was revealed in Cell Reports (2013).

(5) Advanced Manufacturing and Service Management

The advanced manufacturing and service management research center aims at increasing national competiveness and social well-being through cross-disciplinary research works. The research center involved excellent scholars from various areas, including strategy management, manufacturing and quality management, service management, innovation and ergonomics design, and green value chain management, to conduct integrated researches potentially having high impacts to the corresponding problem domains. Strategy directs market competition and technology innovation for manufacturing and service businesses.  Innovation and design create continuous value to customer through new product or service design.  Green value chain emphasizes the connection of values among business entities compliance with sustainability and environmental friendliness. In order to effectively integrate the research capacities and resources of this advanced manufacturing and service management research center, we choose the green energy industry (including solar energy and LED) and ICT industry as our focused industries. Hopefully, through these cross-disciplinary research collaborations, some important finding can be obtained, and the competitiveness of these industries can be enhanced.

3.  Other Outstanding Performance

NTHU has taken effective measures to uplift our performances in research as well as teaching and has achieved concrete results. In the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2013, NTHU ranked 246th. In the QS World University Rankings, NTHU has moved up from the 343rd place in 2006 to the 192nd in 2012. In The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings in 2010, NTHU ranked 107th, the best ranking of all universities in Taiwan. Also in QS and THE’s ranking, NTHU is ahead of all other Taiwanese universities in two important categories—“citations per faculty” (QS) and “citations per paper” (THE). Furthermore, according to the QS World University Rankings by subject in 2014, NTHU has made a great progress in 4 subjects, especially in Chemical Engineering, ranked 39th. Moreover, we have reinvigorated our teaching and research programs by instituting new policies in the areas of faculty recruitment and retention, admission, as well as curricula design.

(1) Faculty Recruitment and Retention

NTHU has implemented effective measures to attract and retain distinguished scholars. Specifically, these include: a) a meritorious salary system and additional ranks; b) ample start-up funds for our new recruits and on campus housing facilities; and, c) advanced research facilities. NTHU will soon establish “Tsing Hua Laboratory”, where state-of-art facilities will be housed together to allow greater accessibility and efficiency for frontier research.

(2) Restructuring Undergraduate Education

 NTHU established a Task Force on Undergraduate Education in 2007. Divided into three groups, their missions were to review the state of undergraduate education, to develop plans to establish the Tsing Hua College, and to improve the quality of our basic education program.

The goal of Tsing Hua College is to prepare students to become future leaders in society who are not only well-versed in their academic subjects but also have a caring attitude toward fellow human beings and will be active participants in social services.  

(3) Internationalizing Our Campus

 NTHU has officially established the Office of International Affairs to administer our international programs. These include: I. internationalizing our campus, II. expanding foreign admissions, III. promoting international faculty and student exchanges as well as cooperative research projects. To facilitate the recruitment of international students, NTHU has developed an innovative and successful program by enlisting the support from the industrial sectors. In this new program, our partner companies provide scholarships for foreign students when they are enrolled and opportunities of internship/employment after their graduation.

(4) Improving Learning and Research Environment

NTHU is making concerted efforts to further improve our teaching learning and research environment. NTHU has constructed a new classroom building with the generous donation from the Delta Electronics Company and a new Learning Resource Center with the support from Macronix International Company. In addition, NTHU has started the construction of an interdisciplinary laboratory where core research facilities and equipments will be installed to provide easy access and greater efficiency.

(2013.8.6)