HKU Faculty of Engineering The University of Hong Kong Faculty of Engineering
Success Stories of HKU


Brilliant engineers like Professor Leung had a fabulous vision of the future. There is always a risk in dreaming about new technologies, but we should not stop dreaming. Some requires years of hard work for their realization; but some are doomed to failure. Luckily, there are those who dare to dream the impossible dreams, and make it possible!

"Vision is the art of seeing things invisible."
Jonathan Swift
Magnetically-Levitated Train
In 1975, Professor Leung invented the experimental magnetically-levitated train at the University of Hong Kong. The related British Patent No.1518520 was issued on his invention in 1978. He presented the principles of operation of such a train in a couple of international conferences attended by experts from around the world including Germany and Japan.

We believe this experimental invention inspired the practical developments of high speed trains in Germany and Japan. Germany manufactured the world’s first magnetically-levitated train to be put into commercial use and sold it to China, which became the Shanghai Maglev Train or Shanghai Transrapid. It is the world’s first commercial high-speed maglev line. Construction began in March 2001, and public service commenced on 1 January 2004.


Prior to this first train commercially-exploited by Germany, Japan had manufactured a prototype train based on the same principle of magnetic levitation. However, the Japanese project was halted at the prototype stage because the train was considered to be uneconomical to run. In April 2007, Japan Rail proposed a new maglev line called Chūō Shinkansen (中央新幹線) which is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

  Fan Story  
  One hot summer day in the early 70s, a young professor was staring at a ceiling fan. A question made him fall totally into a trance and haunted him for a couple of weeks.  
  "How can I measure the torque of a ceiling fan, or more specifically the wind power of a ceiling fan generated by its motor?"  

At that time, Engineering consultants were seriously insufficient in Hong Kong. Our young Professor, Wai Sun Leung, decided to become a part-time engineering consultant so he could contribute by lending his expertise for the advancement of the local manufacturing industry. He went to factories where they needed his knowledge to solve their technical problems.


During one of his visits to a factory, no technical problem was presented to him so he decided to look for one himself. Having walked around searching for new ideas, he leaned back on a chair and took a break. A fan on the ceiling caught his attention and induced his study on the above question.

  Without torque data, the fan manufacturers had no choice but to make excessively powered motors to avoid the motors from being overheated. In other words, they were sending a muscular man to do a boy’s job. Manufacturing fans with excessive motor power would inevitably incur higher production cost. This is why the measurement of torque is so important to the survival and advancement of the fan industry.  
  "Action and reaction are equal and opposite"  
  Based on this principle, Professor Leung successfully invented a torque and power measuring device. He didn’t make a fortune from such an innovation despite the fact that it was the first one in the world. Instead, he introduced it to the local fan manufacturers. He knew that, with the torque meter, our factories could manufacture very competitive products.  
  His achievement was so tremendous that they eventually helped Hong Kong to become the largest fan exporter in the world for a long period of time.  
  Without the contribution of engineers like Professor Leung, the industry of Hong Kong could not be so successful.  
  “Made in Hong Kong” is an enormous brand name today, but we should not forget the people who have contributed towards the success of the brand.  
Prof. Vincent W.S. Leung
Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering
BSc (Eng), University of London,
PhD, University of Leeds,


  ©2009 Faculty of Engineering, The University of Hong Kong