Big is beautiful

As we step into a post-5G era and soon embrace 6G, the Internet of Everything will become a prevalent trend, with users expecting better transmission efficiency and image quality. 

With this in mind, big data imaging and wireless communications applications will be the research focus of the City University of Hong Kong’s exciting new project – The Greater Bay Area Joint Laboratory of Big Data Imaging and Communications, established by the electrical engineering department and the university’s State Key Laboratory of Terahertz and Millimeter Waves.

In October 2019, the department launched a three-year joint lab scheme that will run a new phase each quarter to promote research cooperation between the government, businesses and universities, allowing researchers to find funding for new technologies and the industry to develop new products.

One of the scheme’s projects in the first phase was a 5G and direct current smart building in collaboration with the university’s electrical and mechanical services department and the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute, which received more than HK$2 million in government funding.

The new project is a collaboration with the Shenzhen Academy of Information and Communications Technology, Shenzhen University and leading corporations in the mainland, including Konka and Xiaomi.

The first joint communications and information engineering lab among the 20 laboratories approved by the department of science and technology of Guangdong since the introduction of the joint lab scheme in 2019, it has received 21 million yuan (HK$25 million) in funding, five million yuan of which from the Designated Strategic Fund for Innovative Technology and the other 16 million yuan in contributions from joint lab members.

As a pioneer in wireless communication technology, CityU’s research team will focus on applications of big data communication technologies. 

The codirector of the lab, Luk Kwai-man, who is also a chair professor of the department, said: “The establishment of the joint lab leverages the strengths and advantages of academic institutions and corporations in Guangdong and Hong Kong, and enhances the sharing of scientific data and research facilities.

“It provides a collaborative platform that facilitates the solicitation of funds for research projects.”

The research team, led by Luk and Chan Chi-hou, another chair professor of the department and director of the laboratory, will study antennas’ design using different frequencies in wireless communications, including millimeter waves and terahertz for 5G and 6G communications. 

Their aim is to develop low-cost antennas with high capability and faster data transmission rates, better communication quality and higher reliability to meet the needs of various super-high speed wireless communications technology applications. 

It is estimated that the transmission rate of millimeter waves is 10 times that of the microwave, and that the rate of terahertz is 10 times that of millimeter waves, meaning the transmission of large volumes of data can be done in the blink of an eye.

Another research team, led by Wong Hang, an associate professor at the department and a member of the laboratory, will study new materials for novel antenna components. They will then develop technologies to test terahertz components and systems and their performances for 6G wireless communications. 

The goal is to establish standards for the production of new equipment and components for future communications. Wong said that applying new materials to antennas may allow the manipulation of wave speed, which is a prerequisite for the development of 6G. 

“Through the joint lab, I hope to make a more significant contribution to global communications by developing a commercial terahertz system that can be used for radar and communications,” Luk said.

Like other projects under the university’s joint lab scheme, students can expect more practical opportunities, such as internships offered by the project’s partners and project-oriented courses promised by the department head when the scheme was launched. This allows students to accelerate their learning to adapt to the industry’s research requirements as quickly as possible.

(This article was published at The Standard on January 19, 2021: Education: Big is beautiful )

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