Cathy's passion for chemistry began in high school when her Form 4 teacher taught her to think of the infinite possibilities that chemistry could give life to if she used her imagination. When it was time to apply to universities, Cathy did not hesitate – her top five JUPAS program choices were all in Chemistry. She chose HKUST for the strength of its chemistry program, and spent her next seven years at the university to complete her undergraduate and PhD studies.
During her student days, Cathy discovered that the University had developed an environmentally-friendly air purification technology called Nano Confined Catalytic Oxidation (NCCO) which turns pollutants into water and carbon dioxide. "Traditional air purification systems are like garbage cans," explains Cathy. "When they are new, they are like empty garbage cans, but the problem is that when the garbage can gets too full, the garbage overspills. This is what happens when air purification filters become too saturated and are not changed in time – the pollutants that they had collected will be released back into the environment, albeit in low concentrations which are not detectable by the human nose. On the other hand, NCCO is like a recycling center – instead of simply holding pollutants, it will convert them into water and oxygen molecules and release them back into the environment."
Cathy felt that such a useful technology should be more widely-known and commercialized, and in 2011, joined RHT Industries, a start-up that was working on commercializing NCCO. It was a difficult transition from academia to the commercial world – one of the biggest hurdles that Cathy and her team faced was the long and arduous process of applying for a patent. Cathy also had to spend long hours in foul-smelling environments such as public washrooms, pipe rooms, garbage stations and livestock farms in order to conduct field tests and tailor NCCO filters to target specific pollutants.
With her academic background, however, Cathy was able to not only help to explain the technology to customers, but could also provide professional advice to the company and stakeholders who came from a business background. Her hard work paid off, and RHT's air purification technology is now in use at landfill data collection centers, public restrooms in MTR stations and shopping malls, and hospital pathology wards. In 2016, RHT began selling its air purifiers in Pricerite, one Hong Kong's leading household items retailers.
Going forward, the RHT team is looking to partner with automobile manufacturers in China to incorporate the NCCO technology into their vehicles to reduce emissions. The team is also looking into addressing the smog problem in China by reducing the air pollution caused by offices and factories.
Know more about Cathy from:
HKTDC Website - January 29, 2018
Ming Pao News – July 11, 2017