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Scientist brings solar energy closer to people



When beginning his journey to the US at the age of 20, Nguyễn Trọng Hiếu showed an endless passion for science. From a young student, Hiếu has become one of the nation’s leading scientists in engineering. With pioneer initiatives in solar energy, he and his team have taken humanity one step closer to a future where solar energy can thrive. Việt Nam News reporter Hoàng Hồ talks with Hiếu about his journey.

With excellent scientific research works, Nguyễn Trọng Hiếu was honoured to be nominated by the Central Committee of the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union in the list of 20 outstanding young Vietnamese in 2021. Photo courtesy of ANU

Inner Sanctum: How did you feel when your name was announced among 20 outstanding young Vietnamese in February? What were the turning points in your career?

I’m thrilled and proud to be honoured as one of the outstanding young faces of Việt Nam as a rep for the scientific research category. This motivates me to continue what I have been doing — performing good research and supervising and teaching my students, and mentoring junior colleagues.

I won a full scholarship to study at the Portland State University, USA, thanks to my performance in the first two years of studies at the Hồ Chí Minh City University of Technology. It was a huge step for me. But the turning point was when I started my PhD at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, Australia, immersing myself in their world-class solar device fabrication and characterisation facilities. I received excellent mentoring from many world-renowned researchers and collaborated with many world-leading research groups.

Inner Sanctum: What are the challenges in reaching sustainable solar energy? 

The Earth receives thousands of times more solar energy from the Sun annually than the world’s total energy consumption. However, solar energy usage is still limited due to its higher cost than conventional electricity sources.

This is primarily because of the commercial solar cell efficiency (20 per cent), which is still far below the theoretical limit. The current challenge in improving solar cell efficiencies is the poor understanding of factors that can potentially cause efficiency losses at various stages. My work is well on the way to addressing this knowledge gap and providing the community with new tools to characterise these losses and novel processes to minimise them.

Inner Sanctum: Can you explain your research, its goals and the specific applicability of the research in daily life?

Dramatic climate change forces humanity to seek clean energy sources that are efficient, cost-effective, and reliable. Solar energy is an obvious solution. My research goal is to make solar energy cheaper and closer to everyone. I’m doing it innovatively – exploring light emitted from solar materials.

Nature gives physical things beautiful colours, which are a key to unlocking the potential of solar technologies. The secret is that every part of light emitted from materials contains important information. Examining the emitted light allows me to determine the most efficient material to use.

Because emitted light has unique features corresponding well to certain material properties, I can diagnose the material characteristics by just ‘looking at’ but not ‘touching’ them. I am taking it a step further – after understanding the material properties, I apply the knowledge to the fabrication process.

Much of my research directly supports R&D engineers to improve the efficiency of solar cells. These innovations could be applied to make better solar cells by different solar cell and module manufacturers. Then, the devices will be distributed around the globe, including in Việt Nam.

This will help the industry make more efficient and cheaper solar cells, unlocking the full potential of solar energy and providing low-cost renewable energy for humanity.

Hiếu founded two optical laboratories at the Australian National University, used by more than 50 researchers from nine different groups. Photo courtesy of ANU

Inner Sanctum: Can you share your passion for a field that is difficult for many people? Did you have any difficulties at the beginning of your journey in the US? 

My love for physical science took me to engineering. Then, my bachelor’s study was in electrical engineering, grounded in semiconductors. Ten years ago, solar cells were a hot topic, a path to tackle our climate change. The bulk part of solar cells is semiconductors. I decided to follow this area to utilise my background and do something meaningful for the world.

The greatest difficulty at that time was my English, particularly my writing and speaking skills. To overcome them, I just practised and practised. Practice makes perfect.

Inner Sanctum: How is your time working abroad? What in the US and Australia can Việt Nam learn from?

So far, I have enjoyed my time working in the US and Australia very much. I have built collaborations with numerous leading research groups around the world. These collaborations have provided me with unique opportunities to learn a wide range of state-of-the-art solar cell fabrication processes and characterisation techniques.

I am happy with their open working culture. I’m free to express my opinions and ideas even though they sometimes contradict the majority. VNS


Your Vietnam

Venezuela celebrates Independence Day



For Venezuela’s Independence Day (July 5), Venezuelan ambassador Tatiana Pugh Moreno writes for Việt Nam News.

“Three hundred years are not enough!” A Young Simon Bolívar exclaimed during the sessions of the Constituent Congress that had been installed in 1811. And he continued: “Let us fearlessly lay the first stone of South American freedom. To hesitate is to lose ourselves.” 

With this demand to the rest of the deputies, Bolívar indicated the absolute necessity of liberating Venezuela from Spain. 

On the afternoon of July 5, 1811, with the parliamentarians in favour, they decided to move on to the final vote. Juan Antonio Rodríguez, president of the Congress, then announced the absolute independence of the country:  “I solemnly declare the independence of Venezuela. This frees us from slavery in which we have remained until now.”

This historic event, sealed with the signing of the Act of Independence, marked the political and social destiny of our country. Venezuela would be the first country in Latin America to declare its independence. But Bolívar always thought of a united Latin America capable of defending its own interests: La Patria Grande (the Great Homeland).

Raising the National Flag at the National Pantheon on the celebration of the 210th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of Venezuela (July 5, 2021). Photo courtesy of the embassy

From 1811 onwards, our Father Liberator would still have to fight many battles with his Bolivarian army to liberate Venezuela and five other countries: Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia from the Spanish empire.

Last year we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Carabobo, a battle that liberated us from the Spanish Empire thanks to the military expertise of Bolívar.

Despite all his efforts and glories, Bolívar believed he had ploughed the sea, as he said in his last proclamation before his death in 1830. The enemies of the Homeland had succeeded in separating us, and the Bolivarian project seemed only a dream.

Almost two hundred years later, the Bolivarian Revolution recovered these values. President Hugo Chávez traced the path towards the second and definitive independence. Along with the joy we feel today, we also want to remember that the Venezuelan people have made the irrevocable decision to be a sovereign and independent country.

When today we celebrate July 5 as our National Day, we also celebrate the courage of a people that have resisted and continue to fight against multiple aggressions. A people convinced that our destiny is prosperity, freedom, sovereignty and independence.

Fortunately, Venezuela has many friends in the world who have shown solidarity with us. Many people have watched in admiration as Venezuela has resisted and today stands as a nation recovering its prosperity. A country that advances unstoppably towards the construction of Bolivarian Socialism in the five dimensions defined by the giant Hugo Chávez: political, economic, social, moral and territorial socialism.

Despite the great difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic and the aggressions against Venezuela, the government of President Nicolas Maduro is committed to the recovery of the economic prosperity of our country.

To this end, we are obliged to build our productive and diversified economic model, attracting domestic and foreign investment to develop national productive forces, raise the country’s income and achieve the highest possible levels of prosperity. The growth projections for this year are encouraging, making Venezuela the highest economic growth in the region.

In Venezuela, we are aware that this is possible if we deepen our democratic model, based on the direct exercise of power by the people, with the strengthening of Communal Power and if we maintain the values of solidarity, cooperation and awareness of social duty, to build the Bolivarian Socialism of the 21st century.

As President Nicolas Maduro said: “Let no one be confused! Here, there are a people ready to give their lives for the present and future glories and hope for a happy, humane and socialist homeland.” That is our destiny! VNS


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Your Vietnam

‘Belarus and Việt Nam: time-tested friendship’



Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus in Việt Nam Uladzimir Baravikou writes for Việt Nam News on Belarus National Day (July 3)

Belarus and Việt Nam have long-standing warm relations. Việt Nam is one of our key partners in South-East Asia.

We have seen significant progress in your country in recent times. The economy is gradually recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. GDP is growing. Political contacts, as well as the role of Việt Nam in the international arena, are expanding. We express congratulations on the successful hosting of the Southeast Asian Games. All this is the exceptional merit of the Vietnamese people under the leadership of the Communist Party.

Our countries have a lot in common. The Vietnamese people, like the Belarusian people, have learned to survive and resist aggression throughout their history.

The architectural complex at the Railway Station Square in Minsk. — Photo courtesy of the embassy

On July 3, we celebrate a national holiday – the Independence Day of the Republic of Belarus. On this day in 1944, the capital of our country, the city of Minsk, was liberated from Nazi invaders.

During the Second World War, a real genocide was applied to the Belarusian people – every third Belarusian, more than three million people died. More than 200 cities and settlements were destroyed and burned. But we survived and restored the country. We cherish the memory of that war, which for us will forever remain the Great and Patriotic War!

Belarus is once again denied the right to an equal and mutually respectful dialogue and the right to live on its own land according to its own Law. We are not listened to! Labels are hung on us, and countless and baseless sanctions are imposed. Our friends and partners are under unprecedented pressure.

Belarus has never been a friend against or to the detriment of anyone. It has always proceeded from the need to ensure mutual benefit and consider the interests of partners, even when they have taken unfriendly steps. We have always taken responsibility; we have been a donor of security and stability in Europe. That is what our State has done, is doing, and will do its best to resolve the conflict in Ukraine peacefully.

We highly value friendly ties with Việt Nam and strive to bring our relations to the level of strategic partnership. In confirmation of this, in May this year, we opened the Consulate General in HCM City.

This year is significant. Belarus and Việt Nam established diplomatic relations 30 years ago! But the history of friendship and mutual sympathy between our peoples is much more profound. Thousands of Vietnamese citizens studied and worked in our republic during the years of the Soviet Union. Belarusians helped the formation of an independent Vietnamese state. We managed to maintain sincerity, mutual sympathy and a deep trust in each other.

Belarus is interested in restoring the pre-COVID level and the dynamics of contacts with Việt Nam at a high level. We hope that this year it will be possible to organise the visit of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus to Việt Nam.

In 2021, the trade turnover between the countries reached more than US$200 million. However, the potential in this area is far from exhausted. BELAZ mining dump trucks, MAZ trucks, and Belarus tractors have been known in Việt Nam for many decades.

By the way, it is the Belarusian tractor that is depicted on the banknote of 200 Vietnamese đồng. Many people also remember the legendary motorcycle the “Minsk,” known since the days of the USSR.

In turn, the Belarusian consumer is well acquainted with such traditional Vietnamese goods as silk, seafood, tea and coffee, etc. Recently, Vietnamese microcircuits and electronic equipment under the brand “Made in Việt Nam” have become widely known.

Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War. — Photo courtesy of the embassy

Belarusians know and like the resorts of Việt Nam well. They prefer the local weather, the availability of services and many other advantages compared to other countries. We will be glad if Vietnamese citizens visit Belarusian sanatoriums, nature reserves, and places of military glory and plunge into the atmosphere of the centuries-old traditions of the Belarusian people. The only thing missing is direct flights. But we are working on it: we are working on the launch of charter flights, and in the future, possibly regular ones.

In the relations between our countries, the folk wisdom “A friend in need is a friend indeed” has a special meaning. In December last year, Belarus delivered humanitarian cargo to Việt Nam with a total weight of more than 15 tonnes, containing medical and personal protective equipment. In response, the Vietnamese side handed over tests to Belarus to determine the coronavirus infection.

Even though we are separated by more than 7,000 kilometres, I am convinced that our peoples’ long-term strong and sincere friendship will adequately respond to emerging challenges and bring cooperation between our countries to a higher level. — VNS


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The story of a unique Vietnamese ‘mother’ in Japan



There is a special Vietnamese woman in Japan. She has worked for a company for 16 years, where she is affectionately and respectfully called ‘mother’ not only by younger Vietnamese colleagues and students but also by her Japanese colleagues.

At nearly 70 years old, the woman, whose name is Le Thi Minh Nguyet, is probably the oldest Vietnamese woman still working full-time in Japan.

In fact, her age makes her as old as the grandmothers of the Vietnamese interns studying and working in the East Asian country.

She is not called a mother because of her age, but because of her responsibility and commitment in her role as an interpreter and trainer at the Kantojoho Sangyo Kyodo Kumiai, also known as Kantojoho, union, which specializes in training and placing technical trainees for Japanese companies.

Motherhood abroad

One Sunday, Nguyet’s only day off of the week, she spent the entire day leading some technical trainees to their third vaccination against COVID-19.

Although she is not responsible for it, she always makes it her priority.

Nguyet has become accustomed to taking care of Vietnamese interns over the past 20 years.

Since the maximum length of stay for each intern is three years, she is familiar with many new Vietnamese interns experiencing culture shock in the first few days after arriving in Japan.

“I consider them as my children,” Nguyet said.

She also treats them very seriously as she loves them so much.

The woman can use her own money to help some disadvantaged technical trainees, while never ignoring or compromising with anyone who violates local government and company rules.

Nguyet cannot forget the times when she helped some female trainees get abortions, which is a difficult time for any woman.

“Some of them hugged me at the time and said, ‘How compassionate you are, you resemble my grandmother,'” Nguyet recalled.

“I understand that they might be too ashamed to ask for help in such situations.”

Over the years, the experienced instructor has come across so many memorable stories about young Vietnamese trainees.

She was particularly impressed by the life story of Hanh, a young male trainee from the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long.

Nguyet learned from Hanh’s roommates that he ate only eggs every day for meals.

She thought this was strange and wanted to know the reason.

After talking to Hanh, she knew that he came from an extremely poor family in Vinh Long.

He wanted to save as much money as possible while working in Japan so that he could build a house for his parents when he returned to his hometown a few years later.

Eggs are cheaper in Japan than in Vietnam and have fetched a fixed price for years.

Nguyet remembers well the day Hanh came to say goodbye to her before returning to Vietnam after completing his internship.

He told her about his plan to use some of his savings to open a business renting equipment out for wedding events.

“Now he’s settled down,” the friendly woman laughed cheerfully.

The years she has spent working in Japan have been made even more meaningful by such happy moments.

Minh Nguyet (second from right) in a photo with Vietnamese female trainees who worked in electronics assembly in Japan in 2007 in a photo provided.

Le Thi Minh Nguyet (R, 2nd) sits in a provided photo with Vietnamese trainees who worked in electronics assembly in Japan in 2007.

A special connection to Japan

Nguyet is a former student of the first class of Japanese interpreter training at Hanoi Foreign Trade College in 1972-77 and has worked for Japanese companies since her graduation.

After having worked in Vietnam for more than a decade, she went to Japan when her daughter decided to study there.

She accompanied her daughter to Japan primarily for her personal needs, but deep down she also wanted to do something useful to help her compatriots.

Nguyet then joined Kantojoho, which is the leader among 3,535 unions in Japan in terms of the number of Vietnamese trainees working under its leadership.

The Kantojoho Sangyo Kyodo Kumiai has more than 30 years of experience in recruiting and managing Vietnamese technical trainees in Japan.

What sets the union apart is that it focuses exclusively on working with the Vietnamese labor market, particularly the southern provinces and cities, which account for 90-95 percent of the trainees it recruits.

It is not easy to say in detail what kind of work Nguyet has done for the Kantojoho Sangyo Kyodo Kumiai.

She is involved in almost everything related to Vietnamese trainees, even some activities that sometimes do not fall within her scope of duties.

In tragic cases where the union has to cope with the death of a trainee due to an illness or accident, ‘mother’ Nguyet is even asked to handle the challenging situation with the relatives of the deceased.

She took such responsibility twice and tried to help the family members of the deceased trainees out of her kindness and compassion to overcome the tragedy.

Help for more than 1,000 Vietnamese workers

Nguyet has been living in a small room in Tochigi Prefecture as a permanent employee of the Kantojoho Sangyo Kyodo Kumiai Union for more than 16 years.

She rides her bicycle every day to visit the Vietnamese trainees who live and work in the neighborhood.

She has mentored more than 1,000 young Vietnamese, and counting.

There are about 450,000 Vietnamese interns throughout Japan, including 1,600 in Kantojoho.

She works with an average of 400 trainees per year.

“I would not stop while the union still needs me,” said the 69-year-old trainer, showing her pride in making a small contribution to the education of young people in Japan and Vietnam.

According to Le Tran Hung, one of Nguyet’s younger colleagues at the Kantojoho Sangyo Kyodo Kumiai, openness is her strength, but also her weakness.

“She always tries to approach problems in the right way, but she never compromises on the wrong thing,” Hung said.

Nguyet has made an important contribution to Vietnam-Japan friendship through her unsung work and dedication, he added.

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