Recommendations for Scientific Breakthroughs of Chinese Universities in 2020
By Zhimin, Li
Director of Academic Committee, Institute of China Science and Technology Evaluation and Achievement Management
In 2020, as the deep implementation of the Innovation-driven Development Strategy advocated by the Chinese Government, by continuously promoting the "Fang Guan Fu" reform (reforms to streamline administration and delegate power, improve regulation, and upgrade services) and speeding up the elimination of unreasonable management regulations and systems, substantial progress has been made in reforms such as the management of national science and technology programs, natural science funds, achievement transformation, resource sharing, national awards, and income distribution; the environment for scientific and technological innovation has been optimized; and major scientific and technological achievements have constantly sprung up.
China continues to expand investment in scientific and technological research and development, significantly increases the proportion of basic research grants in research and development expenditures to improve the overall level of scientific research, and focus on reforming scientific and technological evaluation to stimulate greater innovation and creativity. While making good use of financial funds, enterprises and social forces are encouraged to continuously expand investment from multiple channels. Output will come with input and the benefits must be evaluated. Unlike industrial production, scientific research input always results in major achievements coming from long-term accumulation. Therefore, the state encourages researchers to be very patient, make free exploration, accumulate and make more scientific discoveries and inventions. In 2020, the breakthrough achievements of scientific research in universities worth recommending to everyone are as follows:
I.Xue Qikun’s group from Tsinghua University and the scientists of Fudan University discovered an intrinsic magnetic topological insulator MnBi2Te4 and observed the quantum anomalous Hall effect. The required temperature is much higher than that in magnetically doped topological insulators. MnBi2Te4 has both inherent magnetic order and topologically non-trivial electronic structure. Its concentrated and orderly arranged magnetic atoms contribute to a robust quantum anomalous Hall state in its thin film. Various interesting topological phases, such as Weyl semimetal, axion insulator and Chern insulators with tunable Chern numbers, can be found in the material with different magnetic configurations and dimensions. The unique properties make the material an ideal platform to study these topological phases and a good starting point to explore high temperature quantum anomalous Hall systems.
二、北京大学程和平团队研究开发建立南京脑观测台（BNO），提供了高通量脑活动成像的能力。最近，NBO配备了十多个不同类型的 mTPM装置，以及超灵敏结构照明显微镜和具有同步飞行扫描读出（VISO R）的体积成像。通过与脑皮层工作记忆、睡眠、自闭症、抑郁症、神经药理学和神经元再生方面的专家合作，已经开展了这类早期项目研究。BNO的建立能够使科学家自由探索许多生物行为范式，包括身体运动、长期和复杂动作协同、甚至慢性疾病的进展、衰老过程等，为破译大脑的工作原理提供了实验工具。
II.Cheng Heping’s group from Peking University built up the Nanjing Brain Observatory (NBO) which provides the capability of imaging of brain activities at high throughput. Recently, the NBO has equipped with more than ten setups of mTPMs of different types, alongside ultrasensitive structured illumination microscope and Volumetric Imaging with Synchronized on-the-fly-scan and Readout (VISOR). The early-bird projects are ongoing through collaborations with experts in cortical working memory, sleep, autism, depression, neural pharmacology, and neuronal regeneration. The establishment of BNO has provided the experimental tools enabling scientists to freely explore many behavioral paradigms involving body movements, long and complex protocols, and even chronic disease progression and aging to decipher the working principles of the brain.
三、清华大学尤政团队发明了系列基于MEMS 技术的空间姿态传感器新结构、新技术与实现方法，研制了MEMS 陀螺、磁强计、继电器、推进器及纳/皮型星敏感器，首次实现了系列国产化MEMS器件的在轨应用，同时突破了MEMS卫星设计制造、空间微型化功能器件研制及一体化高性能应用等核心技术，形成了MEMS卫星及其相关新技术、新方法、新产品和新应用。
III.You Zheng’s group from Tsinghua University invented a series of new structures, new technologies and implementation methods of spatial attitude sensors based on MEMS technology, and developed MEMS gyroscopes, magnetometers, relays, thrusters and nano/pico-star sensors, which realized the in-orbit application of serialized domestic MEMS devices for the first time, and at the same time made breakthroughs in the core technologies of MEMS satellite design and manufacturing, research and development of spatial micro-functional device and integrated high-performance applications, forming new technologies, new methods, new products and new applications of MEMS satellites.
IV.The group of Dr. Rui-Ping Xiao from Peking University has long focused on the role of a striated muscle-enriched E3 ubiquitin ligase, MG53, in cardiometabolic diseases. Recently, they found that Oxidative stress induced by ischemic preconditioning triggers MG53 secretion from cardiomyocytes. The MG53, either endogenous protein secreted from cardiomyocytes or exogenous recombinant protein applied, can protect the heart against ischemia/reperfusion injury. On the other hand, they identified another adverse side of MG53 that acts as an E3 ligase of AMPK and mediates its ubiquitination-dependent degradation in response to high glucose. This work series on MG53 of Professor Xiao’s group demonstrated that MG53 has therapeutic potential in treating ischemic heart diseases, while it may also disturb metabolic homeostasis.
V.S.-D. Jiang and S. Gao et al from Peking University and South China University of Technology have performed a pulsed EPR study incorporated with the electric field on a Ce3+ doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (YAG) crystal. By applying the electric field pulse with variable lengths and strengths to the crystal, the quantum phase of the Ce ion could be quantitatively manipulated. The bang-bang control, the quantum Zeno effect and the Deutsch-Jozsa algorithm are further demonstrated based on this electric field effect. The work has shown the practical feasibility of the electric field as a means of quantum information processing with the electron spin, shedding light on the tantalizing perspective of utilizing the quantum nature of spin-electric coupling in a solid-state spintronic device.
VI.Liu Jiongtian’s group from Zhengzhou University studied the interaction mechanism between low-quality coal particle and collector molecule/air bubble systematically, especially focus on micro-nano forces existed in the system. Combing multi-scale mechanical characterization with molecular dynamics simulation, a micro repulsive force was always identified between low-quality coal and both hydrocarbon oil molecular and air bubble. They invented the design method that the floatation collector molecule are directive screened and a polar composite collector compatible with the surface functional groups of low-quality coal to achieve selective passivation of hydrophilic sites on the surface, significantly making surface and interfacial forces attractive.
VII.Qiao Jianyong’s group from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications found out a relationship between the Kastner equation and the converse problem of Leau-Fatou petal theorem in the theory of complex dynamical system firstly, and discovered the dynamical mechanism of Kastner. This result shows that the singularity of the continuous evolution of the tunnel elastoplastic deformation curve can be judged by the existence of petal points, which opens up a new way for tunnel dynamics research. The above results give an early warning of the stability of the surrounding rock of a deep underground tunnel: the boundary curve of the butterfly-shaped plastic zone of the rock and soil of the tunnel cross section is the safety critical curve.
VIII. Wang Yanxin’s group from China University of Geosciences, Wuhan (2020) proposed a new theoretical framework of the genesis of geogenic contaminated groundwaters (GCGs) to unravel how the hydrogeological evolution of groundwater systems creates conditions favorable for the enrichment of harmful elements in groundwater, based on their interdisciplinary fundamental study inside and outside China for more than twenty years. Four basic genetic types of GCGs were summarized, including leaching-enrichment type, burial-dissolution type, compaction-release type, and evaporation-concentration type. Considering the impact of global climate change and increasingly strong anthropogenic processes, they further appeal that the evolution of groundwater systems in the Anthropocene Epoch needs to be carefully monitored, modeled and predicted to ensure the sustainable safe supply of groundwater resources and the well-being of the groundwater-dependent ecosystems.
IX.Li Qingbin’s group from Tsinghua University aimed at the failure judgments of fatigue, creep, temperature and other complex load durations. They established a material failure theory based on stress and strain for the difficult problems that the traditional maximum stress criterion, maximum strain criterion, maximum shear stress criterion and energy criterion are not applicable. They considered the influence of deformation, a key index, on strength, which has been verified by experiments, realized the prediction of the material’s life cycle performance development and failure identification, and combined the criterion with real-time rapid simulation calculation of the temperature field and stress field of the arch dam concrete to solve the technical problem of cracking in the construction period of dam concrete.
X.Professor Zhu Hehua’s group from Tongji University originally developed a remote diagnosis and analysis platform for rock tunnels, which integrates effectively different systems of information acquisition and transmission, modeling, analysis, and fast design of supports for tunnel excavation. They resolved some key technical issues including the real-time acquisition of excavation face information, rapid classification of surrounding rocks, dynamic design for supports and rapid feedback. For the first time they enabled the digital fusion between the construction site of rock tunnels to laboratory.