Let me first answer the questions as why we need this Center and what we hope to achieve. First and foremost, the civilization as we know today is under the twin threats of energy sustainability and climate change. These threats are caused by our predominant reliance on the burning of fossil fuels, which has a finite supply, and the burning also emits the greenhouse gas CO2. Since combustion energy constitutes over 80% of the world’s energy supply, it dominates over other forms of energy, either existing or in development. Consequently, even a small improvement in the combustion performance of engines and combustors would result in a disproportionately large reduction in the overall energy budget, as well as the associated CO2 emission. These threats are particularly severe for China because of the huge need of energy to sustain her phenomenal growth in the economy, and because as a world leader China is obligated to actively participate in the global effort towards mitigating these threats.
The impact of combustion on civilization, however, goes much beyond energy, fuels, transportation, industrial heating, and the environment. It is the fire that cooks our food and warms our home; it is the candle flame that lights up the temples in the East and the cathedrals in the West; it is the firework for celebration and the rocket for exploration; but it is also the fire that destroys our houses and the explosion that collapses our coal mines. Furthermore, if we broaden the study of combustion from chemically reacting flows to reacting flows in general, then the scope of combustion would include diverse disciplines in science. For examples, we have nuclear reactions in energy production and in such astrophysical phenomena as the origin of universe and the supernova explosion. We have biological reactions in energy bio-science and the origin of life; and we have plasma reactions in ionized flows. Indeed, since the transformation of energy and matter lies at the heart of science, the study of combustion embraces the entire spectrum of science: chemistry, physics, and biology. Consequently, the Center is rightfully interested in combustion in the broadest sense, with the anticipation that lessons learned at the basic level will invariably migrate to impact problems of a more practical nature, such as those of energy and the climate.
A strong scientific base is needed to tackle problems of such immense complexity. Fortunately, recent advances demonstrate that combustion has evolved from an empirical science to an exact science. It is now poised to make breakthrough advances not only in combustion science, but also in the development of other sciences.
In view of the above challenges and opportunities, the Tsinghua leadership has decided to establish a Center for Combustion Energy. This decision is eminently appropriate because of Tsinghua’s leadership role in technical research and education in China, and because of her existing strength in various aspects of combustion energy, including coal combustion, automotive engines, aeronautical research, fires and hazards. The University has made an impressive commitment to support development of the Center, and she has also designated the Center as a special academic administration unit. In return, the University has great expectations for this Center. It is therefore our vision that in ten years’ time the Center will develop into a leading center on combustion research and education in the world. In order to accomplish this goal, we have also identified the following three missions: we shall advance combustion science at the fundamental level; we shall advance clean combustion energy; and we shall advance combustion research in China.
We have set up for ourselves a matrix to measure success of the Center. In terms of science and technology, the Center will have made significant scientific discoveries that would have stimulated extensive research at the global scale. The Center will also have developed innovative approaches towards moderating the problems of energy and climate. Furthermore, the Center will be integrated into the global alliance of research activities, playing a catalyzing role in advancing combustion science. Members of the Center will have attained strong national and international recognitions. For example, they will be accorded as leaders in their respective areas of expertise; they will be sought after as keynote speakers at conferences, and they will be recruited for positions of prominence worldwide. Its graduates will be similarly sought after for post-doctoral and junior faculty appointments, and Tsinghua herself will also be a destination of choice for graduate studies in combustion by students internationally. This is a goal that I have set for myself, and is an unwritten contract that I have made with the Tsinghua leadership and with the combustion community. This is a tall order, and ten years is a short time to nurture a scientific elite. But we don’t have much time to spare: the energy supply is getting scarce, the world is getting warmer, and viable solutions are few. We must seize this opportunity, and do our part as if there is no tomorrow!
We have been making plans for research, and also developing strategies for success. Specifically, the research program will consist of two thrusts: a core thrust and an innovation thrust. The core thrust would be the bulk of the research effort. It has three components: namely foundation science, energy science, and interdisciplinary science. Each of these components in turn consists of several major research areas. For example, energy science will involve clean coal combustion, clean engine combustion, and fuels chemistry. Yesterday a Workshop on Combustion Science in an Energy-Constrained World was held on campus as part of the centennial celebration of the founding of Tsinghua University. At this workshop position talks on various topics of the core thrust were delivered by their respective leaders, and directions for future research were suggested. It is our intention to regularly sponsor such workshops, together with other global research centers, in order to continuously focus and refine the roadmap for high-value research.
Researchers at the Center will also be encouraged to actively engage in the innovation thrust of the Center, working on grand challenge problems that are high risk, but with high payoff. It is only through such breakthrough and transformational advances that the landscape of combustion energy can be altered and permanent solutions found. As remarked by Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of the US Department of Energy, it will require discoveries at the level of several Nobel Prizes to solve the world’s energy problem. Consequently, even the approach is risky, the severity of the threats calls for bold action. The Center has every intention to be part of this revolution.
The research direction of the Center will be guided by an International Advisory Board, consisting of 17 members from overseas and 10 members from China. It will be chaired by Professor Ron Hanson of Stanford University. The members are leaders in the scientific community. They possess expertise covering the entire spectrum of research activities planned for the Center. They are distinguished by memberships in national academies, by appointments as chair professors and as editors-in-chief of premier scientific journals, and by leadership positions in the International Combustion Institute. The Center is fortunate to have their considerable expertise and wisdom, and we thank them for agreeing to guide our development.
In closing, on behalf of the Center for Combustion Energy, on behalf of Tsinghua University, and on behalf of the combustion community at large, I now sincerely ask for your blessing: blessing that this Center will be a success, that we will have helped in elevating the science of combustion to new heights of beauty, and that the welfare of humankind will be benefited as a result of our joint intellectual pursuit. In return, my colleagues and I at the Center hereby pledge that we will do our best to deliver, on time and on target!
Thank you, 谢谢！
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