Today, we are speaking with Dr. Pei-Kang Sun, a materials researcher working on fuel cell and semiconductor materials, and sub-micron materials. Sun is an expert in the field and have been working on materials bulk and interfacial properties for more than 10 years.
Q: What drew you to the field of materials science and engineering – materials inspection?
The properties of a material involve a reaction to internal and external load. The mechanical properties of metals determine the range of usefulness of a material and establish the service life that can be expected. Interfacial cohesion/adhesion strength affect the robustness of the device system. For example, the thin film protective coatings on the glasses helps to reduce the UV, and people are reluctant to see the degradation of this coating layer. Hence, the material inspection provides a baseline understanding of the materials properties – the temperature range, humidity level, fatigue, aging, etc. for the using.
Q: what sets you apart from other materials scientists/engineers in your field
Many people involve in the projects such as materials synthesis, device development, etc. I believe the basic materials properties are most important factor for any device. Materials and their interfacial properties may affect by various variables- temperature level, loading level, vacuum level, process speed, and so on. The correlation between the processing factors and final results (product) can be helpful for predicting the results from existing data. This idea can be used in a company to conduct failure analysis and “kill ratio” investigation.
Q: can you tell us about the projects you have worked on and the experience?
I have worked on investigating the interfacial study for a particular fuel cell architecture. By studying the processing parameters, we targeted the optimizing process for fabricating robust fuel cells in a simple and quick approach. The fundamental study on the mechanism of the materials properties and interface cross-link properties, our team was able to make a light weight fuel cell (25% of the mass of a typical PEMFC). Because of this, our team have filed a patent.
Q: can you share your experience on filing a patent?
A patent shows the unique and the importance of a person’s research work. I work closely with my advisor on developing a fuel cell architecture with features such as high power-density, structural-flexibility, light-weight. The fuel cell can be used for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to provide higher usage time due to load the “fuel” – hydrogen in a portable hydrogen storage unit. Hence, the structural materials and the interfacial properties are key factors for the fuel cell and ensure the robust structural sealing. The sealing can be achieved at relatively low temperature and the adhesion strength can be greater than 100 times of the cohesion sealing between materials to itself.
Q: can you tell us about the knowledge and skills that helps you on your future path?
Knowledge can be learnt no only with school work, but also from working. However, how to bridge the “knowledge” and “skills” is another story. The chance that I worked with my PhD advisor on projects to develop a product, to study a special case, and to conduct experiment is so precious and help me gain understanding on the setting up an approach to achieve a long-term goal by set up targets/check-points to review my short-term achievement and adjust my strategies. I also believe that teamwork is necessary for achieving the goal.
Q: do you have any advice for materials scientists/engineers working in your field?
Find the area that you have interest in and focus on develop related skills. At the meantime, be open to learn everything. When I first time learning 3D printing, I never know I would love it and use it on “proof of concept” and even “be part of the design“. You never know! Moreover, love what you learnt, and apply what you have learnt when you can.