PROMISING: Faculty members at the University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC), the first international campus for the university based in the United Kingdom, are the recipients of two research grants from the Higher Education Ministry.
The two-year aid -- the first offered to USMC -- fall under the ministry's Fundamental Research Grant Scheme, in line with the 10th Malaysia Plan.
The first of the grants will fund ongoing collaboration with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan.
The team is working on characterising the transport properties of functionalised carbon nanotubes in polymer composites.
Dr Suhaila Mohd Sanip, project leader and education and research manager at USMC, says: "This research looks at the use of carbon nanotubes in separation processes, for instance, to separate carbon dioxide from natural gas in the oil and gas industry.
"It will also delve into the functional modification and transport properties of carbon nanotubes for application as additives in polymer composites.
"These composites can be used for the separation of gases and liquids in environmental, biological and many other practical applications."
Headed by USMC lecturer Dr Pu Suan Hui, the second grant will fund an investigation into graphene growth on silicon.
Graphene, the world's thinnest material, consists of a single atomic layer of carbon in a hexagonal configuration, and is a promising new material for electronics applications such as touch screen displays and energy-efficient electronics.
Graphene has received attention worldwide as a potential replacement for silicon in next-generation transistors because of its unique properties.
It is a promising candidate for future electronic applications.
Recent studies show that its current-carrying capability is more than 100 times that of copper.
Pu says: "There are a number of fabrication challenges that need to be addressed before graphene devices can be produced on a large scale. This grant provides an excellent opportunity to explore new ways of depositing graphene onto silicon wafers, such that devices can easily be fabricated in position.
"The goal is to study the growth of graphene at a fundamental level, thereby overcoming the challenges in large scale growth of defect-free grapheme."
USMC chief executive officer Professor John McBride, who is also actively involved in the research efforts, says: "The funds will be used to recruit local postgraduate students as research assistants, buy research materials and fund participation in conferences to highlight significant findings."