NUS researchers commended as Asia Pacific’s leading young scientists

Three NUS researchers have been honoured in the 2023 edition of the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35 (TR35) Asia Pacific list for their outstanding achievements and contributions to advancing science and technology.

Announced on 3 November 2023, the TR35 Asia Pacific list recognises 35 honourees for their pioneering work in cutting-edge technologies in various fields, from computer science to biomedicine. Aside from acknowledging their academic research achievements, the list also highlights the work of these 35 luminaries in making a profound impact on technology implementation, social responsibility, and sustainable development.

This list commends these remarkable trailblazers under five categories: Inventors who build the stuff of the future; Entrepreneurs who hope to turn innovations into disruptive businesses; Visionaries who find powerful new uses of technology; Humanitarians who take unconventional routes to bring about a healthier, cleaner, and more adaptable world; and Pioneers who push the edge of science to create new approaches to tackling technology challenges.

Assistant Professor Denis Bandurin: Pioneering a future for quantum communications

Semiconductors are key components of electronic devices used in various sectors such as communication, computing, healthcare and transportation. The movement of electrons from one end to another in a semiconductor accounts for the flow of electrical current. Understanding the properties of these electrons and how they flow to carry electric charges across a semiconductor is essential to developing new quantum materials for high-performance semiconductors.

Presidential Young Professor Denis Bandurin from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering under the NUS College of Design and Engineering focuses on understanding how electrons move in novel quantum materials. He was named in this year’s list as a Pioneer for his seminal work on the behaviour of graphene electrons, which revealed the first measurements of electron viscosity in solid-state devices. His work demonstrated mechanisms that govern this phenomenon from the free-electron state.

Asst Prof Bandurin also made significant contributions to the discovery of the plasmonic Fizeau drag effect and developed novel principles of terahertz detection using graphene. He and his team are currently conducting unique radiation-driven magneto-transport experiments on advanced materials that aim to unveil new fundamental phenomena in the quantum flatland while simultaneously developing practical devices for future quantum electronics.

His group also developed sensitive light detectors for infrared and terahertz frequency domains using novel quantum materials with unique electronic properties. This innovative approach facilitates robust photo-response, which will have significant applications in the future of quantum communications.

Asst Prof Bandurin said, "I hope that being honoured under the MIT TR35 Asia Pacific 2023 list will enhance the international recognition of our research group at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering under the NUS College of Design and Engineering. And in turn, with increased visibility, will attract top-tier students and researchers to study and conduct cutting-edge research at NUS and Singapore."

Assistant Professor Iris Yu: Striving for a sustainable circular economy

Food waste is one of the most significant waste streams in Singapore, and the amount of food waste generated has increased by around 20 per cent over the past 10 years. Food waste is commonly discarded in landfills or incinerated with other waste streams. However, this method of disposal has adverse impact on the environment, in the form of carbon emissions and other pollutants. Despite policies to minimise food wastage, novel solutions to treat food waste are needed for Singapore to achieve its decarbonisation goals.

Striving for a sustainable, net-zero future is Assistant Professor Iris Yu from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering under the NUS College of Design and Engineering. Her ground-breaking research on using a microwave-assisted biorefinery for energy-efficient conversion of bioresources into useful chemicals and materials through innovative engineering solutions earned her a spot on this year’s list as a Humanitarian.

Asst Prof Yu is working towards gaining a better understanding of the effects of microwaves within catalytic systems to achieve greener and cleaner synthesis of chemicals. She envisions that leveraging the effects of microwaves in biorefineries can create a circular economy by upcycling food waste into renewable products.

Asst Prof Yu said, “It is a great honour to be listed in the MIT TR35 Asia Pacific 2023. My deepest gratitude goes to my mentors, colleagues, friends, and family, who have supported me through different means along the journey. My research team and I will continue our best efforts to foster scalable chemical upcycling of food waste and biomass.”

Dr Yi Luying: Pioneering the next generation of optical fibre sensors

Traditional optical sensors pose several challenges such as limited wavelength and restricted angular measurement range, making them less effective. To overcome these challenges, Dr Yi Luying, a Research Fellow from the Department of Chemistry under the NUS Faculty of Science, aims to combine optical engineering and the fundamental science of luminescent materials to develop innovative and intelligent optical sensors to support applications such as virtual reality, self-driving cars, and biological imaging.

Dr Yi was lauded in this year’s MIT TR35 Asia Pacific 2023 list as a Pioneer for her ground-breaking discoveries and innovations in developing new optical fibre sensors.

Dr Yi and her team developed a 3D imaging sensor to cover broader range of wavelengths and a wider angular measurement range with higher angular resolution. Further to this invention, Dr Yi developed a dual-tapered fibre array that extends the response wavelength of optical imaging sensors beyond X-rays to gamma rays. This breakthrough led to the successful fabrication of imaging sensors using large-area and high-density X-rays and gamma-rays.

The optical fibre sensors developed by Dr Yi and her team have wide-ranging applications, such as 3D scanning and medical imaging for more accurate and precise imaging.

Dr Yi said, “I believe the goal of any form of innovation is to enhance productivity, and my career in research and innovation has been defined by a relentless quest for knowledge and a deep passion for pushing the boundaries to solve pressing issues of the world with technology. I am grateful for the recognition accorded by the TR35 Asia Pacific list, providing an important source of support for my unwavering commitment to advancing research in the field and harnessing technology to improve lives.”