Chemistry and Physics at Play in Materials Science: the Centennial Celebration of Tsinghua University


  • Xi Zhang

    Corresponding author
    1. Key Lab of Organic Optoelectronics & Molecular Engineering, Department of Chemistry, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
    • Key Lab of Organic Optoelectronics & Molecular Engineering, Department of Chemistry, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.
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This is a special issue that we dedicate to Tsinghua University (Beijing, China) on the occasion of her centennial anniversary. Tsinghua University, one of the most comprehensive universities in China, was established in 1911, on the site of “Qing Hua Yuan” – a royal garden of the Qing Dynasty. At present, the university has 16 schools and 55 departments with faculties in science, engineering, humanities, law, medicine, history, philosophy, economics, management, education, and arts. There are 69 academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering among her strong team of faculties. Now, the University has 36 305 students, including 14 608 undergraduates and 21 697 graduate students. As one of the most renowned universities in China, Tsinghua University has become an important institution for fostering talent and scientific research. Among over 120 000 alumni from Tsinghua University, many outstanding scholars, eminent entrepreneurs, and great statesmen are remembered and respected by their fellow Chinese citizens. With the motto of “Self-Discipline and Social Commitment” and the spirit of “Actions Speak Louder than Words”, Tsinghua University dedicates herself to the well-being of Chinese society and to world development.

The research on materials science in Tsinghua University started from the 1920s. In order to meet the great need of materials research and development in China, the Materials Research Center of Tsinghua University was established in 1979. The research interests of the center covered the fields of metals, ceramics, polymer materials, thin film materials, and solid state physics. In 1988, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was created by merging materials-related parts from Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Engineering Physics, and Department of Mechanical Engineering at Tsinghua University. Since then, it has grown and become the top materials department in China based on its academic programs, its highly regarded faculties, and students. Furthermore, in 1997, the School of Materials Science and Engineering of Tsinghua University was founded to meet the rapid growth in materials research and development. As an interdisciplinary research unit, the School brought together material-related researches in Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Physics and Department of Chemistry.

One special issue cannot cover all the materials research that currently takes place at Tsinghua University. However, in a way it can influence how chemistry and physics are at play for the development of advanced materials. On the one hand, chemistry provides various methods for creation of new materials, and those can be synthetic methods on the basis of covalent bonds or supramolecular methods on the basis of noncovalent bonds. So chemistry is the basis of materials science. On the other hand, physics is responsible for revealing the mechanism and the nature behind new properties of the materials and provides guidelines for the processing of materials. Therefore, the interaction between chemistry and physics play a crucial role in developing advanced materials.

This special issue contains two Review articles, one Progress Report, four Research News articles, and four Communications. The authors are not only from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, but also from the Department of Chemistry, Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Physics, Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center, which reflects the joint efforts and multidisciplinary approach of advanced materials research at Tsinghua University.

In the field of nanomaterials research, Prof. Yadong Li and co-workers summarize recent studies on bimetallic nanocrystals and discuss the potential applications of bimetallic nanocrystals for catalysis. Prof. Xun Wang and co-workers report their recent findings of polyoxometalate mesostructures for highly efficient desulfurization.

In the field of carbon-based materials, Prof. Kaili Jiang and Prof. Shoushan Fan introduce their methods for fabrication of carbon nanotube arrays, films, and yarns. Prof. Gaoquan Shi and co-workers discuss different approches of chemically converted graphene and the use the graphene for advanced composite materials. Prof. Jinghong Li and co-workers demonstrate the combination of carbon and nanomaterials for high-performance Li-ion batteries.

In the field of organic optoelectronics, Prof. Yong Qiu and co-workers show new strategies of designing bipolar small mole­cules for organic light-emitting displays (OLEDs). It should be mentioned that after more than ten years of fundamental research, Prof. Yong Qiu and his co-workers have successfully set up the first manufacturing line in China for the commercial production of OLEDs. Prof. Zhigang Shuai and co-workers discuss different methods for computing charge mobility in organic materials, thus providing guidance for molecular design.

In the field of metallic materials, Prof. Cewen Nan and co-workers summarize recent progress in multiferroic magetoelectric composites. Professor Qikun Xue and co-workers provide an introduction to molecular beam epitaxial growth and novel properties of topological insulator thin films. In the field of functional soft materials, Prof. Dongsheng Liu and co-workers demonstrate the fabrication of DNA hydrogels with programmable thermal and enzymatic responsiveness. Prof. Xiaogong Wang and co-workers report on graphene functionalized with azo-polymer brushes.

During the organization of this commemorative special issue for the centennial celebration of Tsinghua University, we have received great support and kind cooperation from Dr. Carolina Novo and Dr. Martin Ottmar, editors of Advanced Materials. Our gratitude goes to the whole editorial team of Advanced Materials for their enthusiastic pushing forward and professional editing. I want to express appreciation for the efforts of my colleagues at Tsinghua University who have made important contributions to this special issue. The cover page was carefully designed by my Ph.D. student, Mr. Fang Liu, and the picture was taken by Mr. Rui Li, whose contribution should be acknowledged. Last but not the least I want to thank Dr. Huaping Xu for his assistance in editing this special issue. I sincerely hope that the readers of Advanced Materials will enjoy this special issue and I do wish Tsinghua University to achieve more successes in the future.

Biographical Information

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Xi Zhang is the Chair and Full Professor of the Department of Chemistry, Tsinghua University. His research interests are focused on superamphiphiles, supramolecular polymers, selenium-containing polymers, layer-by-layer assembly, and single-molecule force spectroscopy. He serves as a Senior Editor of Langmuir and is member of the Advisory Board of several journals, including Chemical Communications, Polymer, Polymer Chemistry and ACS - Applied Materials & Interfaces. In 2007 he was selected as Academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Currently, he is the vice president of the Chinese Chemical Society.