06 January 11 The Straits Times by Lester Kok
A 'CARPET cloak' that can render everyday objects invisible to the naked eye by bending light rays as they enter and exit the calcite crystal.
This latest breakthrough in optical cloaking technique, which has great potential for military applications, is made possible by collaboration between scientists from Singapore and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
And more of such accomplishments can be expected when a new campus, which brings top-notch local and foreign researchers under one roof, is completed this year, said Dr Tony Tan, chairman of the National Research Foundation (NRF).
Dr Tan was speaking yesterday at the topping out ceremony of the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (Create).
The plan for such a campus - funded by NRF - was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2006.
Located at the new University Town, beside Dover Road, the $360 million facility - slated for completion in July - is among the first of its kind to bring together research centres set up by top-notch universities from various countries.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Tan said: 'The Create campus... will bring a new and significant dimension of research excellence into an already bustling R&D environment in the Kent Ridge and Buona Vista area, moving Singapore closer to becoming a global hub for cutting-edge R&D.'
For a start, the campus will house seven Create research centres set up by foreign universities known for their innovation and entrepreneurship.
They are the MIT, University of California at Berkeley, ETH Zurich, Technical University of Munich, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Currently, five of the centres have started research operations here, and they are housed temporarily at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). NRF's office will also be relocated to the campus.
In all, it is expected to house more than 1,000 local and foreign researchers.
Said Dr Tan: 'Create is designed to stimulate research, innovation and entrepreneurship through the interaction and collaboration of scientists and engineers across a variety of disciplines.'
With that in mind, the campus will be equipped with laboratories which can be reconfigured quickly to cater to the diverse needs of researchers in different disciplines. It comprises a 16-storey tower for offices and dry labs, and three shorter annex buildings for wet labs.
In an encouraging sign, research breakthroughs have been published and high tech companies have been formed even before the campus is ready, Dr Tan said.
The 'carpet cloak', for instance, was developed by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart), which is one of the seven Create centres. Set up in July 2007, it is MIT's only research centre outside Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Another team from Smart also worked with NTU and national water agency PUB to test sensors that could instantly pinpoint leaks in the water distribution network.
Smart has also spun off a biotechnology company, known as Visterra, which will develop new therapies, vaccines and diagnostics for infectious diseases such as influenza and dengue fever.
The cloak's inventor, Professor George Barbastathis, 39, said: 'Certainly Smart and Singapore have been a key factor in the success of our research.'