Fired up on combustion science

Updated: 2013-02-13 10:32

By Zhang Yue in Hefei (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Fired up on combustion science

Katharina Kohse-Hoeinghaus gives a lecture on combustion chemistry. For China Daily

Katharina Kohse-Hoeinghaus, president of the non-profit Combustion Institution and a professor at Bielefeld University in Germany, has just finished a one-month residency at the University of Science and Technology of China in Anhui province.

During her time as a guest professor, Kohse-Hoeinghaus collaborated on projects involving measurement strategies, combustion and biomass pyrolysis - the thermo-chemical decomposition of organic material.

"USTC in Hefei is one of the best universities in China in my field," she said. "I have found USTC alumni at many institutions in China, which tells me that their education is among the best.

"Also, both my university in Bielefeld and USTC have similar goals and values. I liked the interaction with students."

She taught a class on combustion chemistry to about 80 students and visited a number of USTC laboratories, a State-level fire laboratory, and several other universities and institutions in the country to give lectures and to discuss future developments in the field.

The 61-year old described herself as a curious person who has had a strongly developed interest in natural sciences since she was a young girl. She has been to China quite a few times, starting in the early 1990s, and has helped train many young Chinese experts.

"Several of these excellent researchers have now returned to China as professors," she said.

She is also an advisory board member for the new Combustion Energy Center at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

"It is exciting to be able to work with several high-ranking Chinese universities at a time when energy is so crucial to future development," said the professor.

As an expert in combustion energy, the source of more than 80 percent of world's energy today, Kohse-Hoeinghaus pays close attention to global transitions in the energy system, especially in China.

"It is commonly known that technological development and the large population in China make this part of the world extremely important for all decisions and investments in the energy sector," she said.

"China's decisions will influence not only the air quality and health in the country itself, but also the climate of the planet. It is certainly an aspect that cannot be neglected in China's future development. High efficiency and energy-saving strategies in production, power generation and transport will be extremely important."

She stressed that transportation is responsible for a large portion of energy consumption.

"I recently learned that the number of cars per person in Asia is at about the level of the United States before 1920. Just imagine if Asia increases the number tenfold," she said. "It is a great challenge for the future, especially if we wish to have cleaner air than right now."

As a scientist, she says she believes in the power of research and innovation to meet the challenge, and is glad to see China's efforts in international research collaboration essential to new breakthroughs.

One of the 20 foreign experts invited by China's top political leader Xi Jinping for a roundtable discussion on Dec 5, Kohse-Hoeinghaus said the meeting was a reflection of how seriously China's new leadership "takes the process of transformation and innovation in collaboration with other countries".