Michael H. Huang on his Highly Cited Materials Research

July 2012
Michael H. Huang of the National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan

In February of 2011, Thomson Reuters presented a listing of the Top 100 Materials Scientists, 2000-2010, Ranked by Citation Impact [view list]. At #3 on this “impact” listing, by virtue of 34 highly cited papers in Thomson Reuters-indexed materials journals over the previous decade, was Michael H. Huang of the National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. Recently, Thomson Reuters checked in with Huang to find out more about his research and his thoughts on materials science in general.

Huang earned his bachelor’s degree in 1994 from Queen’s College, City University of New York, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999. He subsequently completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California, Berkeley, and back at UCLA. In 2002, Huang moved to the National Tsing Hua University, where he joined the Department of Chemistry and where he is now Professor as well as Vice-Chairman of the department.

In the interview below, Huang discusses the background to his current work and offers his views on materials research and the state of science in Taiwan.


SW: How did you come to be in the field of materials chemistry? What motivated you then and still motivates you today?

Before entering graduate school, I found materials science or materials chemistry to be an area of research I wanted to pursue, so I joined Prof. Jeffrey Zink's group at UCLA, working on mesostructured sol-gel thin films and their formation process. After graduate school I sought to gain more research experience, so I joined Prof. Peidong Yang's group at UC Berkeley to conduct postdoctoral research on ZnO nanowires and the growth of Ag nanowire arrays within the channels of mesoporous silica material.

Since starting my independent research career at NTHU in 2002, I have pursued studies on the controlled synthesis of nanomaterials. Being a graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow, I just did my best to finish my projects. However, at the time I did not know that my postdoctoral work could have such a profound impact on the scientific community. After becoming an assistant professor, I was determined to consistently do good research and to publish good papers time after time and year after year. I thought if it took Peidong two years to become established, I should try to become established in 10 years. Now I still want to tackle interesting and important issues relating to nanomaterials, and I hope to make major contributions to the development of the field.

SW: Please tell us more about the research projects you are currently working on or have just completed. What outcomes are you seeking?

My group is currently focusing on the synthesis of Au, Pd, Cu2O and Ag2O nanocrystals with systematic shape evolution. We also want to explore the synthesis of chalcogenide nanocrystals with systematic shape control. We also have prepared Au-Pd and Au-Cu2O core-shell heterostructures with excellent control of shell morphology. The ability to synthesize these nanocrystals with systematic shape evolution from cubic to octahedral and rhombic dodecahedral structures enables us to study their facet-dependent photocatalytic, catalytic, electrical, molecular adsorption, and chemical etching properties. For example, we have found that the {111} facets of Cu2O is electrically conductive, but the {100} facets are not.

“After becoming an assistant professor, I was determined to consistently do good research and to publish good papers time after time and year after year.”

Through the synthesis of nanoparticles with such morphologies, we can gain insight into the general growth mechanisms of nanocrystals. As for the Au nanocrystals, they readily self-assemble into ordered packing structures. We would like to study how the polyhedral nanocrystals pack into supercrystals, and interpret their novel optical properties. We also want to examine interesting optical properties of the Au-Cu2O core-shell heterostructures as shell thickness decreases. For the Au and Pd nanocrystals, we would like to study their facet-dependent catalytic properties for catalyzing organic reactions. These projects are all interesting and potentially important to pursue, because many properties and applications of nanocrystals are surface-related.

SW: What are some of the major advances you have seen in this field since you entered this field? Where do you see your research leading in the future?

Well, major advances in the nanomaterials field have been achieved, as is evident from the large number of published papers. In the area of synthesis of nanocrystals and core-shell heterostructures with systematic shape evolution, there are not so many good examples available. There are still plenty of material systems one can work on. For example, there is still no example of the synthesis of semiconductor-semiconductor core-shell heterostructures with both polyhedral cores and shells. My research is geared toward more synthesis of nanocrystals with excellent morphology control and the examination of their facet-dependent physical and chemical properties.

SW: What do you consider to be Taiwan's strengths in research and development? What can be done to cultivate these strengths?

Over the years, Taiwan has produced many well-trained students and researchers. This is our asset and strength. Taiwan's R&D strengths are largely associated with information technology. However, there are not quite as many good jobs and companies for these people to further develop their R&D capability.

To cultivate these strengths, we really need some people to take the initiative in starting new companies with significant R&D efforts. Without having more companies, well-trained and educated people cannot build on their strengths.

As one of the prominent scientists in Taiwan today, do you have any advice for other researchers?

I think researchers and professors in Taiwan should try to maintain an active research program. If one's resources are more limited, one might consider collaborating with others to form a team. Young professors should try to stay active in research for 10 to 15 years and be somewhat productive in publications. Another thing is that they should try to conduct more challenging and significant research. They might consult with more experienced faculty on good research ideas.

With good results, they should try to publish their results in good journals, as I noted above, time after time and year after year. It’s okay if the progress on some projects is slow; just try to finish them. I feel the publication performance in Korea has getting quite strong, so we should raise our standards as well.

Michael Hsuan-Yi Huang
Department of Chemistry
National Tsing Hua University
Taiwan

Keywords: 
MATERIALS SCIENCE, MATERIALS CHEMISTRY, NANOCRYSTALS, NANOPARTICLES, SUPERCRYSTALS, SCIENCE IN TAIWAN

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