Superconductivity Leader Receives $2.8M from U.S. Air Force, Returns to UH Full Time

Professor Paul Ching-Wu Chu, founding director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston (TcSUH), has returned full time to the University of Houston.

Chu, the T. L. L. Temple Chair of Science, professor of physics at the University of Houston and executive director of TcSUH, recently concluded an eight-year term as president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), where, due to a unique arrangement between the two universities, he was able to continue to lead the efforts of his productive research group in Houston.

This month Chu received a $2.8 million grant from the U. S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research for his ongoing efforts to search for novel materials that become superconducting at higher temperatures, preferably close to or above room temperature, and with higher current carrying capacity.

Dr. Harold Weinstock, AFOSR program manager, said "I'm most happy that Professor Chu has returned to full-time activities at the University of Houston and that he will intensify his life long quest for new, more useful superconducting materials. He is one of the world leaders in this endeavor, and we at AFOSR are delighted to support his research in our new five-year program to reach new heights in superconductivity research."

To date, no experimental or theoretical evidence exists to suggest that superconductivity at higher temperatures cannot be achieved.

According to Chu, "In the 22 years since the discovery of liquid nitrogen high temperature superconductivity (HTS) here in Houston, great progress has been achieved in all areas of HTS science and technology research and development. The time is ripe for us to bring what we have learned over the years in HTS materials synthesis, characterization and understanding to bear in the search for superconductors with higher transition temperatures and current carrying capacity, and even room temperature superconductors."

The AFOSR grant was awarded over a five-year period to systematically explore a wide range of existing and new materials systems under controlled conditions. These materials will profoundly impact DoD power generation, storage and conditioning systems by enabling the deployment of more compact and lighter power devices with higher energy densities and less cryogenic burden. Great impacts in the civilian sector on electrical energy supply, transmission and storage to enable more efficient use of primary energy sources and the ubiquitous deployment of renewable energy are also expected. The search for novel superconductors that operate at higher temperatures and have greater current carrying capacity is challenging; however, Chu and his team are confident that the search will lead to the discovery of new compounds, novel phenomena and exciting physics.

Chu joined the University of Houston in 1979 and subsequently founded the Magnetic Information Research Laboratory (MIRL, 1985), the Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center (SVEC, 1986), the Texas Center for Superconductivity (TcSUH, 1987), and the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC-UH, 1996).

While at HKUST, Chu continued his UH track record of founding new centers and institutes. He is founding director of HKUST's Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), which champions collaborative projects across disciplines and institutions, and whose board members are comprised of 12 Nobel laureates and other illustrious scholars. IAS has the mission to forge strong relationships with academic, business, community and government leaders to make a difference in the academic and scientific world, and to transform Hong Kong and the Greater China region into a global source of creative and intellectual power.

According to Corbin Robertson Jr., CEO of Quintana Minerals Corporation and Natural Resource Partners, and chairman of the TcSUH Advisory Board, "Paul Chu is one of those rare, multifaceted individuals who manages to devote his time to several important efforts - and do them all well."  While at HKUST he was designated in the ‘public perception of higher institutions' polls as ‘Best University President' for seven out of eight years. HKUST, a young university founded in 1991, was ranked fourth in Asia in 2009, and 35th in the World University Rankings 2008. He has also promoted superconductivity on a worldwide basis.

Allan J. Jacobson, Welch Chair of Science, professor of chemistry and director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity, said Chu is undertaking a similar new activity in Houston. "A few years ago Paul founded the Houston International Materials Forum (HIMF) with the intent of bringing the best and brightest minds together to research topics of global impact. HIMF, created with initial funds from Dr. S. S. Chern, the Chu family and endowments totaling $3 million dollars from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education, has the mission to define and identify the direction of future materials development by a group of world leaders in the field of materials, physics and chemistry."

Chu, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and recipient of numerous honors and awards, currently serves as a member of the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science (U.S.). His international activities include serving as a member of the President's International Advisory Committee of the recently opened King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. He holds numerous patents and has more than 570 publications. Chu has received 10 honorary degrees and six honorary professorships.

About the University of Houston:The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with 37,000 students.

About TcSUH: The Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston is the largest multidisciplinary university superconductivity and advanced materials research effort in the United States, with over 240 faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students who work to discover new high temperature superconducting-, energy- and nano- materials, advance their applications in partnerships with industry, and disseminate knowledge through education, outreach, and technology transfer for the benefit of the public and the environment.

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