In industrial terms, Information technology is a three-legged creature. It consists of IC, or integrated circuitry, long dominated by the US and Taiwan; software, globally cornered by the US; and Display technology which has Korea working overtime to try and gain a stranglehold.
Of the three industries, Display offers the most wiggle room for China to squeeze in as a big player, and that is exactly what the Central Government has it in its developmental cross-hairs. This is where Harvard-educated Prof Kwok Hoi Sing, Chair Professor in our Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering comes in, as the undisputed guru on display research and technology. Under his leadership, HKUST’s Center for Display Research is widely considered the most productive globally in terms of papers published and inventions patented.
In modesty, Prof Kwok said that he could not recall any eureka moment, as this research project has intensely consumed 10 years of his scientific life. His breakthrough came incrementally the old-fashioned way — by trial and error, pioneering the development of low temperature polycrystalline silicon (LTPS) thin-film transistors technology for high resolution active-matrix displays that are commonly in use in TV screens, mobile displays and car dashboard displays. He is a recognized world authority and an influential contributor to the field of organic light-emitting diode (OLED).
We are all familiar with LCD, the second-generation display, whereas OLED is the third-generation display. Already appearing in the market, OLED is poised to soon replace LCD, with its clear advantages in having an energy consumption that is five times lower, better image quality and lower production cost. But OLED is not perfect, at least not yet. It does have its Achilles' heel in that it has a shorter life than LCD.
Prof Kwok is hard at work trying to overcome this deficiency. He has a remarkable record of success in his research endeavors. His research covers the thin-film transistor backplane as well as the OLED emitter itself, and his development of anodes and microcavities make OLED more attractive and efficient. His LTPS backplane, at the forefront of this new technology, has been licensed to Sinodisplay Technology Limited, a Mainland company for commercialization. With a huge initial investment for the manufacture of OLED displays, there is no shortage of funds or talents to produce the hottest product. The bets that China will crack and lead this industry are looking better by the day, and HKUST, at the epicenter of this drive, is looking more magnetic by the minute.