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'King of Explosives' receives top honor

By CANG WEI | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-10 07:42

Wang Zeshan introduces one of his experiments at the Tangshan Scientific Experiment Center at Nanjing University of Science and Technology in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Scientist's inventions have improved launch range of Chinese missiles

Wang Zeshan, a leading scientist who received the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award in China on Monday, says he is a man of limited ability.

"I can only do one thing well in a lifetime," he said. "I'm not good at anything except researching explosives."

Known as the King of Explosives, Wang, 82, has published 15 books and more than 100 technical papers. In 1999, he was elected as an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering. As a professor at Nanjing University of Science and Technology, he has supervised more than 90 doctoral students.

Wang's research into explosives has been widely used in various types of weapons developed in China. His inventions have improved the launch range of Chinese missiles by more than 20 percent.

He and his team overcame the problem of how to recycle discarded explosives by turning them into civilian and military products. He also developed new materials that are not sensitive to changes in temperature which could improve the energy utilization and long-term storage of some explosives.

Born in 1935 in Jilin province, Wang chose explosives as his major when he entered the Harbin Military Engineering College in 1954. Most of his classmates and former colleagues have retired, but he still continues with his research.

Many experiments using explosives must be conducted in remote areas to guarantee safety. Once Wang and his team went to carry out experiments in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, where the temperature was -24 C. While the high-speed cameras stopped functioning due to the cold, Wang, who was in his 80s, spent a whole day in the open air with his colleagues.

Du Ping, a young member of Wang's team, said he felt exhausted after a day's work, but Wang continued to analyze statistics and solve problems at night. "Sometimes we wonder why he's more energetic than younger scientists," he said.

Liao Xin, Wang's secretary, said Wang works more than 12 hours a day. "He doesn't have any concept of the days of the week like we do," Liao said. "He always refers to the exact date."

Xu Fuming, one of Wang's students and former president of the Nanjing University of Science and Technology, said: "Some people even joke that Wang is a 'scientific research addict'. He feels uncomfortable when he isn't thinking."

Wang learned how to drive in his 70s and now drives between Beijing and Shanxi province to conduct experiments and has also learned how to use the latest apps to communicate with young colleagues.

Winning the nation's highest scientific award is not an end but a new beginning. Wang said he and his team will continue to explore new research areas and tackle emerging technical problems.

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