Famous Japanese scientist relocates research team to Shanghai

Pioneering Discoveries for a Cleaner Planet – Professor Akira Fujishima

Japanese mainstream media “Mainichi Shimbun” on September 2 reported that a leading figure in the field of “photocatalysis”, Japanese scientist Professor Akira Fujishima, had led his research team to join full-time the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. Professor Fujishima has been nominated for several Nobel Prizes, and is a foreign academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering

Fujishima was the discoverer of “photocatalysis”.

Photocatalysis involves the acceleration of a chemical reaction by radiant energy (light), and is generally defined as the catalysis of a photochemical reaction at a solid surface, usually a semiconductor.

Photocatalysis has become an effective and an efficient way to cleanup environmental pollutants in the soil, water and the air, and in increasing the efficiency of solar energy. Photocatalysis is thus considered to be one of the promising methods to deal with the world energy problems, including the conversion of water into “green” hydrogen.

Insufficient research funding by Japan’s and a deteriorating domestic academic research environment were cited as the reasons for the move. According to “Mainichi Shimbun”, the “exodus” of top scholars in research fields closely related to industrial competitiveness can be regarded as a landmark event of Japan’s “wisdom loss” [brain drain].

Professor Akira Fujishima

The “Daily News” mentioned that the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology is expected to build a new research institute around Akira Fujishima. Persons involved in academic exchanges between China and Japan also revealed that the establishment and operating costs of the new research institute are currently being prepared for joint funding by the Shanghai Municipal Government and the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. The funding scale is expected to be billions of yen. (Equivalent to hundreds of millions of RMB).

According to the official website of the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology on August 31, the appointment ceremony of Professor Akira Fujishima and his team was held on the 30th of August 2021. At the ceremony, Academician Akira Fujishima expressed his gratitude to the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology for accepting him and his team for making himself and his team an honorable member of the big family of University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. He will lead the team to get acquainted with the new environment as soon as possible, and make good results in the field of photocatalysis-related research and industrial development together with relevant scientific researchers of the school.

Ding Xiaodong, President of the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, said at the ceremony that in order to better support the development of the Akira Fujishima team and build a platform for related research work, the school plans to establish related optoelectronic materials and photocatalysis international And actively seek support from all quarters.

Known as the “father of photocatalysis,” Akira Fujishima had previously appeared on CCTV’s “Let’s Talk” program to share the application knowledge of photocatalysis with Chinese audiences. He mentioned that, for example, the photocatalytic self-cleaning glass used in the National Grand Theater of China can keep its surface clean forever, and a transparent photocatalytic coating can prevent the mirror from generating fog, and even photocatalysis can also be used in air conditioning filters. To decompose harmful gases such as formaldehyde. The latest application of photocatalysis turned out to be used for disease treatment, and the photocatalytic mosquito trap developed by Akira Fujishima has been used in malaria-ridden areas.

Public information shows that Akira Fujishima was born in 1942. In 1967, Akira Fujishima, who entered the University of Tokyo, together with his tutor Kenichi Honda discovered the phenomenon of photolysis of water on the surface of a titanium dioxide single crystal under ultraviolet light, which is the “Honda-Fujishima Effect” (Honda-Fujishima Effect). A new chapter in photocatalysis research. In 1971, he obtained a doctorate degree in applied chemistry from the University of Tokyo, Japan. In 1986, he became a professor in the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tokyo. In 2003, Akira Fujishima retired from the University of Tokyo and served as the chairman of the Kanagawa Institute of Science and Technology. In the same year, he was also elected as a foreign academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. In 2009, he was elected a member of the European Academy of Sciences. From 2010 to March 2018, Akira Fujishima served as the president of Tokyo University of Science.

According to the “Mainichi Shimbun”, Fujishima Akira has been committed to cultivating international students for many years. During the 40 years of continuous exchanges with China, Akira Fujishima has cultivated 38 Chinese students, 3 of whom are already academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He has played a role as a bridge in the cultural, educational, scientific and technological exchanges between China and Japan. As a result, he won the 2019 Chinese Government Friendship Award.

“Insufficient research funding” has been a problem that has plagued Japanese researchers in recent years. In 2004, the corporate reform of Japanese universities led to a significant reduction in the funds directly received by Japanese national universities from government finances. This led to uncertainty in some research projects of Japanese universities, and young scholars were the first to be affected.

In recent years, it is not uncommon for young Japanese scholars to conduct research in China, but it is relatively rare for top scholars in various research fields to conduct research in Chinese universities. As the Japanese media said, this time Fujishima Akira and his research team joined the Chinese University full-time, which can be called a landmark event in the academic circles of China and Japan.

In addition, the “rapid progress” of Chinese universities in science and engineering is also a development trend that cannot be ignored, and Japanese media are also paying close attention to this trend. On August 15th, the Japanese “Modern Business” magazine published a column titled “Chinese universities are advancing by leaps and bounds on the “Engineering Major Rankings”, surpassing the United States, which has withdrawn from the manufacturing field.”

The article cited the latest world university ranking data published by the British educational organization “Quacquarelli Symonds” (QS) and Times Higher Education (THE), and believes that among the various world university rankings, China’s university rankings have increased significantly. In the past, American universities often occupy the top of various rankings, but now Chinese universities can keep pace with American universities. In terms of university rankings for some science and engineering majors, Chinese universities dominate, compared with American universities.

Source: MIN.NEWS, 8 Sept 2021


Further reading: Tokyo University of Science, Photocatalysis: Pioneering Discoveries for a Cleaner Planet, https://www.tus.ac.jp/en/initiatives/vol01/

University of Shanghai for Science and Technology
Shanghai University for Science and Technology