Nanotechnology – the manipulation of matter at the atomic or molecular level – opens up new horizons in fields such as electronics and energy management. Using the science of the very small to make energy generation and storage more sustainable is what motivates sustainable electronics pioneer Prof Gehan Amaratunga.
Since August 2012, Prof Amaratunga has been contributing to the university’s “green” energy drive as the second Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professor appointed at NTU. The prestigious endowed Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professorship is funded by the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation, a philanthropic organisation in Singapore. At NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Prof Amaratunga leads several important projects in energy-saving electronic systems.
His research interests lie in power electronic devices and integrated circuits as well as the use of nanotechnologies for energy. Working on integrated power conversion circuits, he pioneered the integration of logic level electronics for signal processing and high-voltage power transistors in a single microchip. His research into the electronic applications of carbon nanotubes led to the first demonstration of the nanotube-polymer composite solar cell. He is also interested in developing devices for maritime sensing and monitoring applications.
Giving the Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professorship Public Lecture in September 2012, Prof Amaratunga provided captivating insights into the opportunities that arise from deploying nanotechnology in energy generation and storage, in particular, the enhancement of energy storage devices like batteries and supercapacitors through the use of nanosized materials. The NTU-Cambridge Joint Programme in Semiconductors for Energy Conversion and Control, which Prof Amaratunga was instrumental in establishing at the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, now brings together research talents from both NTU and Cambridge University. This initiative involving graduate students is well-funded by Singapore’s National Research Foundation under the Cambridge-CREATE partnership. As part of the tieup, Prof Amaratunga co-organised with Cambridge University two well-received joint workshops on semiconductors for energy conversion and control.
"NTU is privileged to have Prof Amaratunga share his vast knowledge with the global scientific community through talks, seminars and the annual Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professorship Public Lecture. He is also an asset to NTU in our continued conversations and tie-ups with major industrial partners to develop innovations that harness the full potential of nanotechnology,” said NTU’s Provost, Prof Freddy Boey.
“Being both a researcher and a savvy technopreneur, Prof Amaratunga has been a huge source of inspiration to faculty and students within the Power Engineering division and across the College of Engineering. We are pleased that he remains highly committed to working with us on various key projects here in NTU,” added Prof Yoon Soon Fatt, Chair of the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
In parallel to his appointment at NTU, Prof Amaratunga holds the 1966 Chair and Professorship in Engineering at the University of Cambridge, where he is head of Electronics, Power and Energy Conversion in the Department of Engineering. For the past two years, he has also been the Chief of Research and Innovation at the newly formed Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology. This has given him, as he puts it, the opportunity to direct research where “the best minds are focused on some of the most urgent problems of sustaining humankind on the planet without destroying it” – food, water, energy and health issues. These are also very much priority areas at NTU, a world leader in sustainability.
Prof Amaratunga’s work has resulted in 32 patents in the field of novel power electronic device structures. He is the founder and was Chief Technology Officer and Executive Director of power management integrated circuits company Cambridge Semiconductor Ltd, which commercialised a new generation of power and mixed-signal integrated circuits for power management with venture capital investment. To date, the UK company has shipped more than one billion integrated circuits. Prof Amaratunga continues to serve as its Chief Scientific Officer.
He is also the founder of Enecsys, another company in the UK that develops and markets grid-connected micro inverters and monitoring systems for solar energy harvesting in homes and businesses. Prof Amaratunga has been the Director and Founder of Nanoinstruments Ltd, which was acquired by Aixtron AG, a leading provider of deposition equipment to the semiconductor industry. He is also a founder of two startups – Wind Technologies, specialising in generators for wind turbines, and Camutronics, a company dealing in power semiconductor devices.
Prof Amaratunga chairs the steering committee of the Nokia-Cambridge University Strategic Collaboration on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and heads the Nokia-CU Nanotechnology for Energy Programme. He is a member of the Investment Advisory Board of New Energy Solutions, a Danish venture capital fund.
An Elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, he received the Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal in 2007. He has published over 500 archived journal and conference papers with a total citation count of over 12,000 and an H–index of 62.