The Collaborative Innovation Center of Chemistry for Energy Materials (iChEM) was established in September 2012 jointly by Xiamen University (XMU), Fudan University (FDU), the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), and Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
It has been created under the framework of “Collaborative Innovation Program” of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Ministry of Finance (MOF) of China, the so-called “2011-Program”, launched in 2011 after the well-known National “211-Program” and “985-Program”. The mission of the consortium is to integrate key innovative elements among the universities, research institutes and enterprises in China and abroad. In addition, iChEM takes advantage of the strengths in “chemistry and materials sciences” of the four member institutions in the further advancement of cutting-edge energy-related research and meanwhile training younger generation of for research excellence, whereby strengthening research community and industry collaboration.
In order to achieve breakthroughs in energy science and technology, collaborations across multiple disciplines and between different departments and major research laboratories in universities, research institutes, and industries are necessary. Chemistry is one of the most important disciplines capable of solving the energy problems. Top universities in China such as XMU, FDU, and USTC universities are able to make a tremendous impact in cutting edge chemical research. The above universities have published large number of publications in top international journals like Science, Nature and Nature family ranked 1st, 3rd, and 4th respectively. In addition, long-term collaboration has already been established between the three universities in chemistry undergraduate teaching, discipline structuring and research. The DICP is well known for its leading role in catalytic chemistry and energy-related researches in China and so it has started a laboratory called “Dalian National Laboratory for Clean Energy (DNL)” for the development of chemical energy conversion by using clean, efficient and renewable energy technologies. Moreover, collaborations between the universities and institutes of the CAS are highly encouraged by the MOE.
The four member institutions have successfully operated twelve national or state key laboratories. The State Key Laboratory of Physical Chemistry of Solid Surfaces (PCOSS, XMU), the National Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (NSRL, USTC), the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale (HFNL, USTC), the Alcohol Ether Ester Chemical Cleaner Production National Engineering Laboratory (XMU), the State Key Laboratory of Catalysis (SKLC, DICP), the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Reaction Dynamics (SKLMRD, DICP), and the Dalian National Laboratory for Clean Energy (DNL, DICP) are national level research laboratories affiliated with the Center. The PCOSS has been evaluated as the top laboratory in chemistry and chemical engineering disciplines for continuously four times over the last 20 years. In 2009, the PCOSS together with the other two laboratories of DICP of SKLC and SKLMRD not only ranked top three in all of the National laboratories for physical chemistry, but also occupied three seats out of six seats in total in the competition of outstanding National laboratories for overall disciplines of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. The operation and research style in these State Key Laboratories actually acts like a preliminary model for the innovation center. Part of the research scientists in these laboratories are key members of the 7 Innovative Research Teams created by the National Natural Science Foundation of China on the basis of highly competitive application procedures. The Members of the Center are leading 36 national major basic research projects such as the 973 project and the national instrumentation project.
Research in iChEM will focus on (i) optimal utilization of carbon resources, (ii) chemical energy storage and conversion, and (iii) solar energy conversion chemistry. To support these energy-oriented subjects, basic research on (i) synthesis and fabrication, (ii) theory and simulation, and (iii) instrumentation and methodology will be carried out. It is thus expected that with the collaborative efforts throughout the world, the problems that could not be solved by individual research groups or even individual universities, can now become well targeted with outputs that leads energy chemistry research in China towards the better international visualization.
The Center has established international standards of scientific research and organizational structures and recruited a number of well-recognized experts on chemistry and materials for energy. About 108 professors of the four member institutions have been selected as research scientists of the iChEM, including 10 members of the CAS (MCAS), 39 National Distinguished Young Scientist Grant awardees, and 11 Cheung Kong scholars. Some of the members are Editors, Associate Editors, and Advisory Editorial Board members of Chem. Soc. Rev.，Nano Today，and J. Am. Chem. Soc. etc, and some of the members received outstanding international awards, such as, the Faraday Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the Brian Conway Award from International Society of Electrochemistry (ISE), the Technology Award from the International Battery Association (IBA), and the Achievement Award from the International Mesostructured Materials Association (IMMA), etc.
In addition to the members from the four core member institutes, 15 well-recognized scientists joined the Center as external collaborators, for example, international experts include Prof. Pei-Dong Yang from University of California-Berkeley (UC-Berkeley), the member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences USA and Associate Editor of “J. Am. Chem. Soc.”, Prof. Wen-Bin Lin from the University of North Carolina, Prof S. C. Edman Tsang from the University of Oxford, Prof. Edward S. Yeung from the Ames National Lab, and Prof. Yong Wang from the Washington State University. Professors of other institutes in China include Mao-Chun Hong (MCAS) from Fujian Institute of Research on the Structure of Matter of CAS, Lei Jiang (MCAS) from Institute of Chemistry of CAS and School of Chemistry and Environment at Beihang University, and Zhi-Gang Shuai (Cheung Kong scholar) from Tsinghua University.
University of California–Santa Barbara (UCSB-IEE) is one of the most successful research institutes for energy related research in the USA, similarly iChEM is designed to operate as a special zone which promotes a transformation of collaborative innovation within China's universities and institutes. UCSB is one of the rapidly developed universities in recent ten years, and the UCSB’s materials program was ranked No.2 in the 2013 U.S. News list of American universities, and No.1 among public institutions. To meet the development strategy of the U.S. Department of Energy, the IEE was established by the UCSB in 2008 as a transition to the energy sector. The IEE gathered a group of top talent faculties in various fields of materials, chemistry, physics, chemical engineering, marine, electrical engineering and economics, aiming at improvement of energy efficiency.
Since the inception the iChEM has set its long-term strategies and short-term plans. In summary, we are happy to say that we have successfully accomplished the initial goals and targets. With three stages of understanding, innovation and application, we believe that the iChEM will gather and foster a number of top-notch international academic talents and innovative team leaders to make enormous original scientific achievements on energy material chemistry and build a world-class scientific research center. Besides, iChEM has been finally approved by MOE in the national competition of 2011-CICs, it is hoped that all iChEM members will contribute their best to theiChEM planning and operations. In particular, we welcome suggestions and advices on future scientific research directions as well as the administration and management of iChEM.