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Zunfeng Liu-From 0 to 1, the most meaningful innovation

Concentrating on innovative breakthrough from 0 to 1, Zunfeng Liu, a professor of materials science in the post-80s of Nankai University, believed that the world of new materials has infinite charm. Many of his research results were published in international authoritative journals. From his point of view, the basic qualities of scientific researcher are curiosity and willpower.

A piece of smart material clothes can sense the moisture on the surface of the skin. Clothes change from long sleeves to short sleeves when they sweat, they return to the original when the sweat dried...

A piece of artificial spider silk can bear a lot of weight, stretch slowly and will not rebound as fast as a rubber band. When there's a fire on the upper floors, people can use it to slow down the falling and save themselves...In the laboratory of Zunfeng Liu, a post-80s professor and doctoral supervisor at the College of Chemistry, Nankai University, these fantastic materials have become possible. Science and other international authoritative journals published many of his research results.

The favorite——Change human life through scientific research

"The development of human is also the development of materials. Imagine if we could make a wire that wouldn't break no matter how we pulled it, maybe we could connect the Earth and the moon." Speaking of materials science, Zunfeng Liu is in high spirits. As far as he concerned, through the new polymer functional materials research, to find a stronger, more intelligent materials, is to explore the mysteries of the world.

Zunfeng Liu said frankly that he likes innovative research. “I don’t do the so-called ‘fashionable’ scientific research. I like changing human life through scientific research the most.”

In 2008, Zunfeng Liu went to Leiden University in the Netherlands as a postdoctoral fellow. His co-supervisor helped him choose the research topic of separating proteins from nanometer materials and assisting in the analysis of protein structures. It was a difficult and obscure subject, progressing very slowly, without major paper published for several years." But years later, it turned out that the original study opened up a new way to analyze structural problems in proteins." The experience, Prof. Liu said, made him feel more keenly that innovation research is the most difficult task and from 0 to 1 is the most meaningful innovation.

Zunfeng Liu set his sights on a less researched field. At present, air conditioners and refrigerators are widely used in the principle of compression refrigeration, refrigeration efficiency is generally less than 60%. An obvious question is how to improve refrigeration efficiency. Common improvement ideas focus on changing refrigerant, structural design and other ways, but Zunfeng Liu is not satisfied with this. A study his team was involved in initially confirmed "torsional refrigeration" a new type of flexible refrigeration method, which is to use materials such as rubber, fishing lines and textile threads to realize refrigeration like "torsional twist" with a cooling efficiency of 67 percent and a reduction in cooling costs. "Before, people didn't realize that these common materials could be used for cooling." The new refrigeration technology expands a new sector in the field of refrigeration and offers a new way to reduce energy consumption in the field, said Liu. The findings, published online October 11, 2019 in the journal Science, are reported by Corresponding author Lawrence Liu.

In 2013, Zunfeng Liu began to contact with intelligent materials. His main line of scientific research and innovation is to find new properties of materials and new applications by analyzing and utilizing special structures of materials.

From his opinion, innovative ideas can be unrestrained, but the application must be down-to-earth. Artificial muscles can simulate the muscles of humans and animals, and have a wide range of applications in the fields of medicine, aerospace and so on. However, the preparation of "artificial muscle" fiber is mainly made of nano-carbon material, which is expensive, complicated and of poor comfort. Zunfeng Liu and his team took a different approach, using natural pure silk instead of traditional carbon nano-materials, without chemical modification and additives, to make smart clothes through conventional industrial processes.

The most exciting——The question mark in my heart is "straightened"

Presided over a number of national natural science foundation projects, selected into the national, Tianjin and other high-end talent programs...Zunfeng Liu's resume is pretty enviable, but he said frankly that his undergraduate performance is not the top, and his postgraduate is not recommended, "I am not the excellent students in teacher's eyes".

As a student, Liu was more obsessed with figuring out the principles behind questions than with getting high grades. What does acceleration mean in Newton's second law? Prof. Liu stucked with the question for a week in high school. "This mode of thinking laid a solid foundation for my subsequent innovative research." said Prof. Liu.

In 1998, Zunfeng Liu was admitted to the Chemistry Department of Nankai University. In the library, Liu discovered a "new continent". He spends almost all his time in the library except for classes, dabbling in different fields, such as economics, philosophy, physics and biology. Recalling the experience in that year, Zunfeng Liu was filled with emotion "A large amount of knowledge of various disciplines greatly improved my cognition of things, which promoted innovation in scientific research.

Liu said he was most excited about the question mark being "straightened out". Innovation research is like a big tree. If it has a solid foundation, it needs many branches to flourish. If it has more branches, it will be more likely to discover new phenomena. You have to know what's in the world to know what's not. In addition to the knowledge of chemistry and materials science, he also applied a large number of physics, mathematics, biology and other knowledge.

The biggest dream——Students make greater contributions to their country

In 2016, Zunfeng Liu came to Nankai University to teach as a doctoral supervisor, with more than a dozen master and doctoral students. Doctoral student Wang Run can't forget an experience while working on a project torsional refrigeration." At that time, the temperature data measured by the 'torsional refrigeration' of rubber shrinkage stretching by seven times had been accurate and stable. However, just as we were preparing to write the paper, the data changed suddenly, with a difference of 1-2 degrees Celsius." Wang recalled.

Zunfeng Liu leads us to find the reason. After checking the machine condition, whether the sample preparation is repeated, whether the operation method is standard, and whether the calculation is wrong, the research is still in a deadlock. "We were scratching our heads and even suspected that the previous test data were not accurate," said Wang. "Prof.Liu encouraged us not to give up. It's normal to fiddle around for months to get duplicate data." It turned out that tianjin had higher humidity in the summer, causing changes in the experimental data.

As Zunfeng Liu often said, "Curiosity and willpower are the basic qualities for scientific research." Students know that if they are criticized, it is because they are perfunctory. Prof. Liu is optimistic and gentle, caring and tolerant to students. There is no bad student in Liu's eyes. "They just haven't learned the method yet."

"I hope my students can grow quickly and make greater contributions to the country in the future." said Prof. Liu.