Academic profile: Scientia Professor Liangchi Zhang FTSE

Scientia Professor Liangchi Zhang

Describe the type of research you are currently engaged in

My research focusses on Precision and Nano Processing Technologies. It’s an interdisciplinary field which uses physics, mechanics, thermodynamics, and both materials and mechanical manufacturing. It’s also multi-scale, working from the quantum, nano and micro scales, to the conventional continuum length scales. My research emphasises both the fundamentals of the technologies and their direct applications to industry.

What would you say most motivates you as a researcher?

I would say I have two major motivations. The first is to explore the frontier of mechanical and manufacturing sciences. My team is at the cutting edge of the discipline, so it’s exciting and innovative work. My other motivation is in relation to solving problems in a way that brings about significant technological developments and benefits to the field as we know it. It’s one thing to look for new ideas or technologies, it’s quite another to see these breakthroughs in action.

What are you most excited or passionate about?

I find it very fulfilling when my team solves an important scientific or technical problem which has puzzled the discipline for a long time. New discoveries are always exciting, and I enjoy seeing the progress made by my students and team members.

How did you come to be involved in your field of research?

My research focus has been very much driven by my personality – curiosity is a major driving force. I like to make discoveries in new frontiers and to develop innovative technologies for advanced manufacturing. I have a theoretical background in mathematics and mechanics, and I like science – particularly physics and mechanics. This led me to study degrees in mechanics where mathematics plays a key role. From there, I found that manufacturing involves the widest range of materials and disciplines to which an open-minded researcher can make useful contributions.

What has been your proudest moment?

It’s hard to say – every achievement excites and recharges me for the next project. I think some of the highlights for my team include:

  • Developing more efficient polishing of diamond materials
  • Developing novel methods for the dispersion and alignment of carbon nanotubes
  • Creation of high performance cutting tips
  • Creating damage-free silicon wafers
  • Establishing reliable constitutive laws of metals and nanocomposites
  • Identifying the properties of nanomaterials
  • Exploring the mechanisms of nano-friction and nano-wear
  • Creating phase transformation diagrams of semiconductors
  • Discovering ballistic resistant nanomaterials.

However I am probably at my proudest and happiest when I hear of the successes my team and students have, be it in their career and professional development, their latest findings, or in their family and personal lives. We’re a very close team.

What were you doing before you came to UNSW?

I was Professor of Mechanical Engineering and ARC Australian Professorial Fellow at The University of Sydney.

Describe one of the projects that you are currently working on

I am currently conducting some research for an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project on the manufacture of microlens arrays. The aim of this research project is to develop an approach that will enable the production of defect-free microlens arrays, and hence remove one of the major challenges in this field. We are thus required to develop sophisticated theories and create sensible application platforms.

Microlens arrays are important to the development of a wide range of frontier technologies. Some examples of their applications include:

  • Renewable energy devices and systems (e.g., solar, wind, water and nuclear energy)
  • Consumer and electronics products (e.g., automotives, electronic and digital goods, flat panel displays, TVs)
  • Nano/micro-electro-mechanical-systems (e.g., sensors and actuators for precision instruments)
  • Defence and security equipment (e.g., radars, lasers, security detectors and alarm systems)
  • Optics and telecommunications (e.g., lenses, optical fibre coupling, SoS systems)
  • Sports (e.g., biomimetic and sports equipment)
  • Mining (e.g., unmanned underground equipment and instruments)
  • Aeronautical and aerospace devices (e.g., telescopes, satellites)
  • Environment, agriculture and agribusiness (e.g., surveying facilities and plant protection shields)
  • Medicinal and biological machine systems (e.g., micro drug delivery systems, artificial organs, implants, sonar, radar, ultrasound imaging systems, x-rays spectroscopy)

Visit Liangchi Zhang's Research Gateway profile for more information about his work.

Scientia Professor Liangchi Zhang in the laboratory