Dr Wee Jun ONG, Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering (Malaysia)

Portrait Dr Wee Jun ONG

In his research, Dr Wee Jun Ong focuses on solar energy conversion and energy storage to address the seriousness of energy security and environmental issues by mimicking the ingenuity of nature. The main focus of his research is designing two-dimensional (2D)-based nanocomposites, which are analogous to an “artificial leaf” for CO₂ reduction, H₂O splitting and N₂ fixation.

XIAMEN UNIVERSITY MALAYSIA, MALAYSIA

Research focus: engineering next-generation nanomaterials toward efficient artificial photosynthesis for sustainable fuel production from sunlight

The atmospheric CO₂ concentration is constantly rising and was already 43% higher in 2015 than in the pre-industrial era. Concerning the environmental burdens and severe energy shortage catastrophe, the quest for exploring renewable energy using sunlight to imitate the natural photosynthesis has emerged as a sustainable strategy. This will help to resolve the energy supply bottleneck caused by the depletion of fossil fuels as the reaction harnesses energy directly from the sun. Wee Jun focuses on decreasing the growing concentration of CO₂ in the atmosphere and converting solar energy and CO₂/H2O to fuels by means of chemical bonds. These projects will uncover clean energy resources to substitute fossil fuels toward sustainable energy production.

The idea of Wee Jun’s research lies in the design of novel techniques for engineering heterojunction photocatalysts for efficient solar light utilisation. With the development of high-efficiency photocatalysts, the nanocomposites were employed to reduce CO₂ to energy fuels and reduce H₂O to H₂. Notably, solar light is harvested and converted to highly energetic sustainable fuels. Apart from the experimental works, Wee Jun demonstrates interdisciplinary research by collaborating with overseas researchers who are engaged in the field of computational modeling and advanced spectroscopic characterisations. The core technology is combining computational results and experimental techniques in a computer-aided catalysts design to reach commercialisation. Through simulation, this helps to understand fundamental principles and elementary reactions involved in CO₂ conversion, H₂O splitting and H₂ fixation. Additionally it identifies the rate-determining step and also clarifies the origin of the overpotential and elucidates the role of the active site of catalysts.

Now as an Assistant Professor at Xiamen University Malaysia, Wee Jun is developing his ideas among other academics to potentially create a renewable energy research hub on the campus.

The jury values Wee Jun’s approach of CO₂ reduction and conversion of solar energy to fuels and sees its potential to become a definitive solution for future energy supply in many countries. The jury also believes that the Green Talents Science Forum will help Wee Jun to establish collaboration between Malaysia and Germany and bring positive impacts to the environment and atmosphere.