CHINA SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The Ministry of Science and Technology
People's Republic of China
IN THIS ISSUE
* Enhanced Basic Research Strength
* Affluent Findings for Basic Research
* Proprietary Gas Hydrate Sampler
* Small dsRNAs Induce Transcriptional Activation
*Major Progresses for Wireless Sensing Technology
Enhanced Basic Research Strength
SCI Chinese collection has enjoyed a steady rise from 15th place in 1991 to 5th in 2004, (remaining so in 2005). In the meanwhile, citations of Chinese papers also went up from 19th place in 2002 to 13th in 2005. An integrated analysis of indicators, concerning the number of paper, citation, number of highly cited papers, and number of “red-hot” papers for major areas during the period of 1992-2003, shows that China’s major disciplines have entered the world first 25 in ranking, of which mathematics, material science, chemistry, engineering technology, and physics are above the benchmark, with Earth science and computer science on the benchmark, and life science below it, though with a strong catch-up tendency. For example, an analysis of 17 major research directions in the area of cell biology and genetics shows that, during the period of 2001-2005, 16 research directions have registered a total paper number that makes them part of the world top ten, with the citations of most research directions are in the first 15 places. It is worth mentioning that Chinese scientists have published in the capacity of the first author 5 papers, or 9 in total, taking into account the collaborative papers, in the top life science journal Cell in 2005, after a long break of 25 years. As of today this year, Chinese scientists have published 7 collaborative papers in the journal. Numerous original research findings possessing application values have been turned into patents.
In the last few years, 14 Chinese scientists have been honored with Fresnel Prize, Abdus Salam Medal for Science and Technology, and Women in Science Award. 4 Chinese scientists have been elected senior officials of important international science organizations, including chairman of IAC and vice president of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS). 40 Chinese have been elected members or academicians of important academic organizations or academy of sciences in other countries. Numerous Chinese scientists have been invited to work for internationally renowned journals, including Science.
Statistics show that during the 10th Five-year period (2001-2005), China’s full time basic research population has risen from 78,800 person/year in 2001 to 115,400 person/year in 2005, with a growth of 46.45%. In 2005, China’s full time R&D personnel registered 1.3648 million person/year, of whom basic research personnel takes 8.46%.
Up to date, there are some 200 national key labs in operation, with an expanding network of field observing and research stations. A number of macro-science engineering units have been completed, and started to render important findings. The knowledge based innovation project, initiated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the 985 project, sponsored by the Ministry of Education, have enhanced the investment in establishing scientific research platforms. These efforts have noticeably improved China’s scientific research and R&D facilities and associated environment.
Affluent Findings for Basic Research
In recent years, China has staged a string of research initiatives to address scientific cutting-edges issues and national needs. Some of the findings derived from the efforts have produced important influence among international academic communities, and some others have played a lead role in the nation’s economic and social development.
In the area of brain and cognitive sciences and neurosciences, Chinese scientists have proposed the topological perception theory and associated biological evidences, which makes a challenge against the traditional early-feature analysis, and has won the wide acknowledgement of their international peers. Substantive progresses have also been made in choice behavior of Drosophila facing contradictory visual cues, and Drosophila’s learning and memory mechanisms. Researchers also unveiled the new mechanism of morphine’s analgesic effect, which sets up a challenge before the traditional understanding of pain regulating system, and predicts an important clinical application perspective.
Chinese scientists have achieved noticeable progresses in protein structure studies, including 3D analysis of LHCII, crystal structure of mitochondrial respiratory membrane protein complex Ⅱ, SARScoronavirus proteins, and the H/ACA complex. The successful analysis of 3D structures of membrane proteins and protein complex has demonstrated China’s internationally advanced capability in structural biology of proteins.
In the area of genetics, Chinese researchers have found a highly effective PB Transposon for mammals, which is thought highly by their international peers, for it not only provides a new technical means for genetic study of mammals, but also greatly raises the efficiency of genetic function screening.
China has long been an active player of cutting-edge quantum information and telecommunication technology. Chinese scientists have realized five-photon entanglement and associated quantum state teleportation, a major development applauded by international physics communities. Not long ago, Chinese scientists have, in collaboration with scientists from other countries, realized the quantum teleportation of a two-qubit composite system. In addition, the successful quantum-key distribution over a 125-km real telecommunication cable makes a substantive progress for improving China’s information security using quantum technology.
China has maintained its international leading position in non-linear optical crystal, by rolling out a 20×10×1.8mm3 6th harmonic KBBF crystal, which breaks up the ceiling of 1mm for the thickness of crystals. Chinese scientists also developed the prism coupler technology, which makes a deep UV laser output (200-193nm）possible, allowing China to work on the 4th generation light source. Chinese made multi-color laser device also enjoys a broad application perspective.
China has worked hard to be part of the international cutting-edges for nanomaterials. The single-wall carbon nanotubes, manufactured using the thermal catalytic decomposition technique, has been acknowledged and widely used by international peers as one of four major nanotube making process.
In the area of thermal nuclear fusion, the world first Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokomak with noncircular cross-section, independently designed and manufactured by Chinese scientists, have successfully made its first physical discharge this year. The unit has become an important support for the pre-phase study of International Thermal-nuclear Experimental Reactor（ITER）. The effort has won applauds from international fusion community.
In the area of stratigraphy, China has added three more Global Stratotype Sections and Points (GSSP) to its collection, making the GSSPs in China’s possession to 6 in number.
Thanks to the painstaking efforts of several generations, China has achieved substantive progresses in compiling Flora of China, Fauna Sinica, and Flora Fungorum Sinicorum. So far, Flora of China, made up of 126 series in 80 volumes, has been published, with its English version on the way. The compilation of three huge works provides important evidences for studying biodiversity and biological evolutions, and is of great importance to protecting and utilizing China’s bioresources.
In the area of basic research on major crops, the rice genome sequence has been cited over 700 times by peers, enjoying an extensive international influence. Discovery and cloning of rice tillering gene MOC1 has led to an improved understanding of molecular mechanism of rice tillering regulation, which is significantly important for raising the yield of grass family crops such as rice. The discovery of molecular regulation mechanism of Potassium ion channels in Arabidopsis thaliana predicts a potential application value for improving the Potassium supply to plants.
In the area of major diseases prevention and treatment, Chinese scientists have achieved encouraging progresses. For example, the APL study has led to the establishment of a combined target therapy, which makes APL the first cancer that can be cured. China has also achieved major technical progresses in main infectious diseases prevention and control, including SARS and avian influenza, in the context of pathogenic biology, molecular epidemiology, pathogenic mechanism, and pathogenic mutation. The effort has noticeably raised China’s response to the outbreak of infectious diseases.
In the area of petroleum mining and clean utilization, Chinese scientists have improved their knowledge of the structure and performance of surfactants for EOR at the molecular level, which resulted in a low-cost, efficient, and pollution free alkyl benzene sulfonate (ABS) surfactant. The test in the Daqing Oilfield has registered a greatly enhanced oil recovery in three rounds of trial operation. A range of new techniques and processes, including proprietary MIP and RIDOS, have been worked out, through developing the olefin reaction network, to address excessively high olefin and sulphur contents in China’s oil-gas products,. The new techniques have found extensive applications in manufacturing clean auto gas.
The basic theoretical study of steel solidification and crystal control has resulted in new generation steel materials, featured with high purity, high homogeneity, and super plasticity, with a doubled strength, compared with conventional common steels. The new products have found applications in auto making and structures building. Theory and technologies for reverse flotation selection of hard bauxite, the original desilication flotation process, and improved Bayer process will eventually boost China’s utilizable bauxite reserves by 2-5 times.
Proprietary Gas Hydrate Sampler
Deep-water natural gas-hydrate sampler, jointly developed by the Marine Technology and Engineering Center, and the National Key Lab for Fluid Power Transmission, both affiliated to the Zhejiang University, has been proved safe and reliable, since it was put to collect samples in the marine environment. The novel sampler is designed to reach a sampling depth up to 10 meters, or 2-5 times that of the domestic samplers in current use, with its main performance indicators claiming a leading position in the world.
According to a briefing, the sampler, using a structure similar to the pressure piston sampler, can go directly down to the sea floor collecting samples. Designed for a maximum sample collecting depth up to 10 meters, and a work depth up to 3000 meters, the sampler handles specimen in such a manner that it keeps the original temperature and pressure of the specimen. The project has won domestic patent grants for one invention and one utility. The sampler has been tested last May in a marine environment, aboard a scientific expedition boat, over the northern part of the South China Sea. It successfully collected a well preserved 9.15-m deep-sea sediment specimen at a depth of 1940m, with all of its technical indicators up to the design target.
To further test the reliability and flexibility of the novel sampler in a field environment, the Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey Bureau tried it again last August to collect deep-sea specimen with a maximum length up to 9.5m, preserved at a pressure up to 32MPa, aboard a scientific expedition boat that was investigating natural gas hydrate resources over the northern part of the South China Sea. The innovative sampler has achieved a sampling success of 80%.
Small dsRNAs Induce Transcriptional Activation
Dr. LI Longcheng, an assistant researcher at Department of Urology, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University of California, San Francisco, and his collaborators have, based on a three-year study, proved the gene activation function of small dsRNAs’ in human cells. Researchers blocked up the growth of cancerous cells, through activating cancer inhibitor genes using the phenomenon.
LI and his collaborators found that small dsRNAs could activate targeted genes in human cell lines, sending signals to the cells asking them to produce a large quantity of “favorable cells”, such as cancer inhibitors, within a short period of time. Named by LI as “RNA Activation”, the discovery heralds a new potential for cancer treatment.
According to LI, the newly discovered RNA Activation is of a wider application perspective for treating diseases, compared with RNA Interference. RNA Interference needs a clearly defined cancer gene as the target, when treating a cancer patient. Unfortunately, people have not yet worked out pathogenic genes for all cancers. On an advantageous side, RNA Activation puts a curb on the growth of cancerous cells, through activating or enhancing the expression of targeted cancer inhibitors, without calling for specified pathogenic genes. In addition, RNA Activation may prove its unique applications in stem cell study and associated production. The finding will eventually reveal new approaches for treating a range of diseases, including cancers, metabolic syndromes, and inherited diseases.
The finding was published in the November 3 issue of the journal Science, and appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the same day.
Major Progresses for Wireless Sensing Technology
China has achieved major progresses in a range of key sensing technologies, including wireless intelligent sensor network telecommunication, micro sensors, sensor nodes, point clusters, and associated applications.
Chinese researchers have developed an array of new sensors, featured with MEMS and integrated information applications, including micro electromechanical system, vibration sensor, sound sensor, infrared sensor, optical fiber sensor, and ultrasonic sensors array. At present, seven new sensors have found well defined application directions, with two others already into mass production. The development has secured the Chinese Academy of Sciences a domestic leading position in MEMS technologies.
In the area of systems, researchers have rolled out 9 sensor network terminals and 4 series base prototypes in 5 categories, and landed breakthroughs in low power consumption and minisizing. Substantive progresses in special networks have made the development of different sensor networks using the sensor network equipment possible. They have also realized the intensive connection between different wireless sensor networks and public and satellite networks. In the meanwhile, they have developed core protocol chips for wireless sensor network.
Based on numerous key technical improvements, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has swiftly transferred partial research findings into commercial applications. For example, it has established a complete value chain for wireless sensor technology. CAS researchers also re-developed key technologies that were developed during the 10th Five-year period (2001-2005), and found applications of innovative sensor technologies in a number of operations, including Shanghai Intelligent Traffic System, Jiaxing Intelligent Water Traffic System, and the security system at the Pudong Airport.
Sensor network and associated intelligent information processing has been listed a major R&D topic to address, in the area of information industry and modern service industry, under the National Outline for Medium and Long Term S&T Development Planning published not long ago. Efforts will be made to develop a range of required technologies, including novel sensors, advanced automatic bar code identification, radio frequency tags, and multi-sensor information based intelligent information processing. Other objectives to be accomplished include developing low-cost sensor networks and real-time information processing systems, and establishing simpler and more powerful information service platforms and environment.
Comments or inquiries on editorial matters or Newsletter content should be directed to:
Mr. Mao Zhongying, Department of International Cooperation, MOST 15B, Fuxing Road Beijing 100862, PR China Tel: (8610)58881360 Fax: (8610) 58881364