On the morning of January 9, 2017, Beijing, China greeted another milestone in superconductivity when Zhao Zhongxian, a leading Chinese physicist, received the 2016 State Top Scientific and Technological Award certificate from President Xi Jinping at the awarding ceremony of the State Science and Technology Prizes held in Beijing.
With a long list of honors and titles, such as academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), former vice president and an Honorary Member of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) , member of the World Academy of Science, etc., what Zhao really cares is always superconductivity research.
In 1989, Zhao and his team in CASInstitute of Physicsdiscovered YBCO high temperature superconducting material. By virtue of this discovery,the team won the first class State Natural Science Award and Zhao became well-known to the public for the first time. Twenty-five years later, Zhao and his team won the first class State Natural Science Award for a second time for their discovery and research of the superconductivity for the iron-based high-temperature superconductors (above 40K)(Kelvin, a unit of thermodynamic temperature). In 2017, Zhao was honored the State Top Scientific and Technological Award.
Decades ago, no one couldimagine that thispersevering teenager, whose dream was to be enrolled by the University of Science and Technology of China, wouldwork wonders in superconductivity.
Persistent explorationleads the road to the Hall of World Science
In 1964, Zhao graduated from University of Science and Technology of China in Physics. Sincethen, he has been researching on superconductivity in the Institute of Physics,CAS.
In April 1986, Swiss scientists J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müllerdiscovered high-Tc superconductivity in the Ba-La-Cu-O System (35K).
“At the end of September 1986, Chen Liquan and other colleagues joined me, and then we took up our researches on superconductivity inBa-La-Cu-O System.” Zhao recalled.
They worked day and night in the lab. When hungry, they boiled noodles; if tired, they took turns in taking naps on chairs. In face of a torrid time, they encouraged each other, “the new superconductor may be discovered in the following sample.”
Their hardworking finally paid off, they discovered the sign of superconductivity (70K) in the Ba-La-Cu-O system. At the beginning of 1987, they gained the superconductor (100K). Subsequently, in the spring of 1988, they took the lead in discovering Bi-system superconductorTl-system superconductor.
Zhao and his Chinese colleagues have ranked among the world’s advanced superconducting research.
Keep at It at Any Time
Time flies, and the new century comes. In 2006, Zhao Zhongxian, in his sixties, was elected as vice president of CAST at its 7th national congress. He actively organized sci-tech workers to promote the development of science and boost technology innovation. At the same time, Zhao still engaged himself in his beloved superconducting research, and led his team to increase the upper critical temperature of superconductivity to above 50K.
Even today, they still keep the world record of the upper critical temperature of 55K. When telling their research experiences, Zhao mentioned the word ‘persistence’ repeatedly.
In the m id and late 20th century, the international researches on superconductivity were at the low ebb, and some research teams in China were disbanded. Zhao and his team still kept on doing their researches. Keeping at it at any time is their belief. They numerously prepared, observed, gave up and started again. It is persistence that makes Zhao a representative of China in the world of physics.
Concentrating on Building of CAST and Committing Himself to Talent Cultivation
Now, Zhao is in his seventies, and scientific researches are still his favorite. Even at weekends, he is often seen in the lab. “I cannot work for scientific researches like young people.” Zhao said, “however, I can try my best to do the two things well, one is to organize sci-tech workers to find a scientific and reasonable research direction and discuss how to concentrate energies to make a breakthrough; the other is to advocate international scientific and technological exchanges and create a good environment for scientific research in order to inspire the young people’s passions and creativity.
As he is getting old, Zhao spent his energies more in boosting the building of CAST, helping the young people control the right scientific direction and establishing a good research environment, he spares no effort to cultivate postgraduate and reserve researchers.
As vice president of CAST, Zhao committed himself to promoting the development of scientific and technological exchanges and giving support to innovation in science and technology; he did his best to cultivate reserve innovative talents for the country. Later, Zhao applied himself to the support policy for overseas returnees, and he actively introduced sci-tech talents, built a good platform for the overseas sci-tech returnees to start their businesses, which promoted the development of brain gain and international talent exchanges of CAST.
Devoting all his life to superconducting research, Zhao worked a series of wonders. Like an old steed in the stable aspiring to gallop a thousand miles, he still contributes his share to cultivate more excellent researchers for scientific research. Zhao is a real superconductivity fighter. With his strong perseverance and wisdom, he is worthy of his role as a great scientist.
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