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Highlights in Chemical Science

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Interview: The rise and rise of green chemistry in China


12 January 2007

Buxing Han talks to Nicola Nugent about becoming a chemist, his latest research interests and chemistry in China today

Buxing Han
Buxing Han
Buxing Han is a professor at the Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, and the chairman of the Commission on Thermodynamics and Thermoanalysis for the Chinese Chemical Society. His research interests lie in the chemical thermodynamics of green chemistry.



Why did you become a scientist? 
I began to be interested in science when I was young, however, it was difficult for me to decide my future at that time. I graduated from high school in 1973, but did not get an opportunity to enter university until 1978 when the nationwide university entrance examinations started again after ten years of stoppage. I eventually entered university to study chemical engineering for my undergraduate program. After that I studied for my master's degree in inorganic chemistry followed by my PhD in physical chemistry. After my PhD, I went to Canada to do post doctoral research for two years. Because it was not easy for me to get that opportunity and I am very interested in science, I have been studying and working very hard from university until now. 

What area of research do you work in now?
I am currently working on green solvents, including mainly physicochemical properties of green solvent systems, chemical reactions in green solvents, and preparation and modification of materials using green solvents. Some properties of green solvents are very different from those of conventional solvents. By using green solvents, many processes can be cleaner. At the same time, by taking the advantage of the properties of these solvents, we can optimize chemical processes, and enhance reaction efficiency and make some materials which cannot be fabricated using conventional solvents.

What is the secret to successful research?

"If researchers with different, though related backgrounds work together, then it is more possible to generate new ideas."
- Buxing Han
This is an interesting and challenging question. It depends on many factors - I think several things are important. First, we should work hard. Second, we should work at the frontiers of science and technology. We should avoid routine work, because our time, our energy, our money and resource are limited. If you continue with routine work, you waste your time and money and you do not contribute significantly to science and technology. Also, for many research fields, it is important to do interdisciplinary work. If researchers with different, though related backgrounds work together, then it is more possible to generate new ideas. 

China is becoming a major player in chemical research. Do you think chemistry is important for the future development of China?

"Chemistry is very important for the development of mankind - we need chemistry. It cannot be replaced by any other field."
- Buxing Han
Yes, I think so. Generally, China cannot compare with the developed countries in chemical research now, but we are growing very quickly. The Chinese government pays much attention to science and technology. Chemistry is very important for the development of mankind - we need chemistry. It cannot be replaced by any other field. Chemistry and chemical engineering are very important for China in the future.

Do you think the Chinese government's generous funding of science and technology will continue?
Yes - I'm sure about that. Science and technology is very important for the development of our country. Research funding is increasing very quickly and I'm sure that this will continue, because it really benefits the development of the whole of China.

Is green chemistry big in China?
Yes, people in China pay much attention to green chemistry, and many green chemistry laboratories or green chemistry centres have been established in China during the past ten years. We also have a series of international symposia on green chemistry in China, and the 8th symposium will be held in 2007. We are paying more and more attention to green chemistry.

Finally, if you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
I was born in a small village in China. Before I entered university, I was doing hard physical work, as an iron worker, melting and moulding iron products. I might still be doing that now if I hadn't gone to university. Actually, I was very successful at that because I try to do everything to the best of my ability.

 

Related Links

Link icon Buxing Han's webpage
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China


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Related Links

Supported choline chloride/urea as a heterogeneous catalyst for chemical fixation of carbon dioxide to cyclic carbonates
Anlian Zhu, Tao Jiang, Buxing Han, Jicheng Zhang, Ye Xie and Xiumin Ma, Green Chem., 2007, 9, 169
DOI: 10.1039/b612164k

Study on guanidine-based task-specific ionic liquids as catalysts for direct aldol reactions without solvent
Anlian Zhu, Tao Jiang, Buxing Han, Jun Huang, Jicheng Zhang and Xiumin Ma, New J. Chem., 2006, 30, 736
DOI: 10.1039/b600277c

Effect of compressed CO2 on the chloroperoxidase catalyzed halogenation of 1,3-dihydroxybenzene in reverse micelles
Jing Chen, Jianling Zhang, Buxing Han, Junchun Li, Zhonghao Li and Xiaoying Feng, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2006, 8, 877
DOI: 10.1039/b514369a