How did Xu Guangxian change the pattern of rare earth in the world?

Xu Guangxian: Changing the World Rare Earth Pattern

In the Sino-U.S. Trade friction, people are more and more concerned about which "trump cards" China will come up with in response. Many foreign media have turned their attention to rare earths in China. Some analysts believe that "China's dominant position in the rare earth market has given Beijing a counterattack."".

Today, when people talk about rare earths, they are also talking about national strength and caring about the current situation. So, how do we gain a late-moving advantage in this strategic element? Only by finding out the way and through the eyes of history can we standLooking over the shoulders of years.

Research turns only for national needs

Xu Guangxian, this is a name destined to be written in the history of the development of rare earths in China. The theory of cascade extraction of rare earths he put forward has made China truly become a rare earth power.

Back in 1971, in the late period of the "Cultural Revolution", Xu Guangxian returned to the Department of Chemistry at Peking University from the decentralized Jiangxi Liyuzhou and joined the ranks of rare earth research. This is a turning point in his academic direction. Although early in Columbia University in the United StatesWhen studying for his Ph.D., Xu Guangxian's research direction was quantum chemistry, but after returning to China in 1951 to teach at the Peking University Department of Chemistry, he was only hired by Qian Sanqiang for 6 years, and was transferred out to form the Department of Technical Physics.Started the study of nuclear fuel extraction. Xu Guangxian once recalled: "At that time, everyone took the country's needs first and resolutely obeyed the organization's allocation." In the study of nuclear fuel extraction and teaching of nuclear physics, it was more than ten years. Back to the Department of Chemistry, Began to study the separation of rare earths, which also originated from the needs of the country. At that time, the separation of praseodymium and neodymium in rare earth elements was a world-class scientific research problem. Because the separation process was backward, we could only import high prices from abroad. This problem was urgently needed to be solved. In 1972,Beijing University received the urgent task of separating neodymium and neodymium, and Xu Guangxian took the burden.

When taking on the task, the internationally common methods for separating rare earths are ion exchange method and fractional crystallization method, but these two methods have high extraction costs, low purity of the extracted rare earth elements, and cannot adapt to large-scale industrial production.Question. Xu Guangxian decided to take a different approach and use the old method of nuclear fuel extraction, which has been researched for many years, the extraction method to conduct experiments.

Easy to say, easy to do. In actual production, what solvent is added, how much is added, how many times this process is repeated, how to coordinate the extraction process of one element with the extraction process of other elements, etc., all needSolving them one by one, coupled with factors such as cost and time in industrial production, are all issues that Xu Guangxian needs to study.

At that time, no one believed that the extraction method could be used in the production of rare earth industries. But Xu Guangxian did not give up. He carried out experiments many times to explore the relationship formula that can give the concentration ratio and flow ratio of the material liquid, extractant, and detergent.Cascade extraction theory. Huang Chunhui, 86-year-old academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was also involved in the research of Xu Guangxian's team at that time. She once recalled: "At that time, the development of a process was as long as a few months and as many as a year.In these tedious labors, whether it is the three-shift operation of the shaker funnel or the expanded experiment in the workshop, as large as the formulation of the experimental scheme, as small as the determination of the PH value, sir has participated in specific, until now I still keep a lot of people working together to writeExperimental records. "

Refused to turn China into an "overseas factory"

While Xu Guangxian researched the theory of cascade extraction of rare earth separation day and night, many industrial developments in China were being restricted by rare earth elements.

In the 1970s and 1980s, because technology was backward but urgently needed for application, China had to negotiate with foreign companies to purchase rare earth separation technology. At that time, France's Rhone Poulenc was a giant in the rare earth industry.Not only is the asking price very high, but also proposes that the products must be exclusively distributed by them. This harsh condition is actually to turn China's rare earth separation industry into the company's overseas factory.

△ Xu Guangxian with students

In 1980, when Xu Guangxian led a rare earth research delegation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to visit France, he was refused to visit Rhone Poulenc. The French side also set all extractants and process parameters as "top secret". It can be said that every negotiation has stirred up domestic rare earth work.Righteous indignation.

Before the separation technology was available, China could only export rare earth ore raw materials to foreign countries for a long time, and then imported rare earth products, which caused great losses. For a large country with rare earth resources, this situation of being controlled by people is a dilemma that must be resolved as soon as possible.Deputy Prime Minister Fang Yi and Yuan Baohua, the National Leading Group for the Promotion and Application of Rare Earth, have repeatedly encouraged rare earth science and technology workers to work together to overcome the separation problem.

Xu Guangxian was finally selected in history. It took only 4 years to accept the task of separating praseodymium and neodymium from 1972. At the first national rare earth extraction conference held in Baotou in October 1976, Xu Guangxian explained the cascade to the participating experts.The extraction of rare earth separation theory immediately attracted widespread attention in the industry.

A few years later, Xu Guangxian perfected this theory and designed a model suitable for industrial production. Yan Chunhua, a chemist who is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and president of Lanzhou University, still remembers the process of participating in the research at that time. It was from 1983 toIn 1986, Xu Guangxian led the team to establish an expert system using cascade extraction theory and computer dynamic simulation calculations. It can change according to the market needs of China's different rare earth resources, different raw material compositions, and various product purity specifications and recovery requirements.An optimized separation process and parameters were designed inside, and the design parameters were directly applied to industrial production. Yan Chunhua was the first to follow the teacher Xu Guangxian on a business trip in Baotou in 1983 and participated in this work.

Before going to Baotou, they collected data obtained by dozens of engineers and technicians at the Baotou Rare Earth Research Institute after years of hard work. In that era of underdeveloped computers, Xu Guangxian and chemist Li Biaoguo guided Yan Chunhua together to transfer huge data.All simulations are calculated. It took them more than 3 months.

With the calculation results, they came to Baotou and rationally reduced the consumption of chemical raw materials in the rare earth separation process, improving process stability and efficiency. A few years later, Yan Chunhua took the baton from Xu Guangxian and became a rare earth material chemistry at Peking University.And director of the State Key Laboratory of Applied Sciences and chief scientist of the basic research project of rare earth functional materials.

On July 10, 1984, 64-year-old Xu Guangxian made a special trip to Baotou regardless of his seniority. Baotou in that time and space will determine whether our country can rewrite the fate of being held by a foreign rare earth company.The test run of the extraction tank and pipeline flow meter of Baosteel Nonferrous Metals Plant No. 3 has only been in trial for 5 days. Xu Guangxian insisted on personally inspecting the equipment and raw materials. This is a device designed according to the principles he proposed. After the site inspection, Xu Guangxian found a problem and chargedThe concentration of the tank liquid is proportioned according to the concentration during normal operation, but the initial filling conditions of the equipment are not the same as those during normal operation. He immediately reported the situation to the responsible comrade of Baosteel No. 3 Plant and readjusted it.Setting. On July 15, Baotou ushered in a milestone victory in the history of the development of the rare earth industry in China-the equipment was turned on, and qualified pure neodymium products were obtained in only 9 days of operation.

He made Chinese rare earth people laugh and laugh

The success of this rare earth full separation industrial test made it impossible for Chinese mining companies to become an "overseas factory" for foreign companies, and also laid the foundation for future research and applications. Ma Pengqi, an old engineer at Baosteel, remembersAn exhilarating experience. When the first China-Japan Rare Earth Technology Exchange Conference was held in Tokyo, Japan in October 1988, the Japanese media arrogantly stated that they should adhere to three principles: China provides raw materials, Japan refines; insists on refinement where needed; cannot be made to ChinaProvide separation technology. "In fact, we didn't need Japanese separation technology at that time, and we have formed our own separation technology system in 1988." Ma Peng talked about this with a smile.

The reason for the formation of the "own separation technology system" is that Xu Guangxian spared no effort to promote the cascade extraction theory. After the theory was put forward in 1976, rare earth workers across the country are required to learn. In order to reverse the technological constraints as soon as possibleThe situation, in June 1977, Xu Guangxian organized a half-month national seminar on cascade extraction theory later called a workshop, located in Shanghai. Nine universities, 11 research institutes and 7 factories in ChinaMany scientific researchers and front-line technicians gathered in Shanghai to learn new theories. Since then, this learning activity has been held once a year, and a large number of talents have been cultivated.

△ China has become the world's largest producer, application and exporter of rare earths. China accounts for more than 90% of the world's market supply with 23% of the world's rare earth reserves.

Soon, rare earth companies across the country have successfully implemented cascade extraction theory, greatly shortening the work cycle and optimizing the process parameters. A row of not-so-excellent extraction boxes are connected like an assembly line, only needPut raw materials here, and at the other end of the assembly line, a variety of high-purity rare-earth elements will be continuously output. In the past, the process that took a long time, low yield, low separation coefficient, and continuous production was completely abandoned.

△ Xu Guangxian working at the desk

Since the 1990s, due to the large amount of high-purity rare earth exports in China, the international single rare earth price has dropped by half. Some foreign rare earth producers that had long monopolized the international rare earth market had to reduce production, switch production or even stop production. This phenomenon wasKnown abroad as CHINA IMPACT Chinese meaning "Chinese impact", the impact is very far-reaching. Those who once stood on the top of the rare earth separation process and arrogantly stubbornly discovered that the leader in this field is no longer the former United States, France andJapan, but China. "This has given us valuable time and opportunities to continue our research." Wang Bingwu commented.

In the later years, he rushed to establish a national reserve system

On January 9, 2009, the bright lights in the Great Hall of the People and the National Science and Technology Awards Conference were held. At the time, President Hu Jintao awarded the 2008 National Highest Science and Technology Award certificate to 89-year-old Xu Guangxian, and the audience rang endlessly.Applause.

The cascade extraction theory has brought China ’s rare earth separation technology to the world advanced level, but it is also because of the strong practicality of this theory that once it is poorly managed, it will easily bring negative effects. Guo Jianrong, a researcher at the history of Beijing University, interviewedIn Xu Guangxian's time, he once heard him distressingly talk about the waste of rare earth resources and the weak awareness of protection-"Our research funding is provided by the state, and we are very happy that the research results can be applied in state-owned factories. We do not want knowledge at allProperty rights, patent fees, etc. Let ’s go for promotion. I went to three large state-owned factories, such as Shanghai Yuelong Factory, Zhujiang Smelter, and Baotou Rare Earth Factory, and lived in the factory to run classes. Since our method is better, our profits are better.As a result, local factories and private factories wanted to do it, and they used high salaries to dig out chief engineers and technicians from state-owned factories. This led to the rapid establishment of dozens of rare-earth factories. The annual output reached 120,000 to 150,000 tons.The demand was only 100,000 tons, resulting in oversupply. Vicious competition drastically reduced the price of rare earth to half of the world price in 1985. Japan, South Korea, and other major countriesBuy China ’s cheap high-quality single rare earth and enjoy the rich profits from our technological progress, but the profits of our rare earth enterprises are very low. From 1995 to 2005, we lost hundreds of millions of dollars in rare earth exports every year. I desperately appealed,I hope to set up an industry association like OPEC to consciously control output and increase prices. I have called on the rare earth industry at various meetings many times, but no consensus has been reached. "

At the age of 80, Xu Guangxian also went to Baotou for investigation and wrote to Premier Wen Jiabao twice, once to call for the establishment of a rare earth national reserve system, and once for the proper protection of mineral resources and pollution prevention.

"I proposed to limit it to less than 100,000 tons, but it was unsuccessful. I wrote to Premier Wen Jiabao, and Premier Wen Jiabao granted to the Ministry of Land and Resources. The limit was approved to 80,000 tons in 2006 and implemented in 2007. The news came from the JapaneseI panicked, desperately buying China's high-quality rare earths, and the price increased by 1 to 3 times. In the financial crisis of 2008, the prices of rare earths fell. In addition, Japan has reserved 20 years of rare earths, and we do not buy them. We control the world ’s rare earth production.More than 90%, but we do not have pricing power. I call for the establishment of a rare earth resource reserve system. Because petroleum, coal and other energy sources can be substituted, such as solar energy, wind power, nuclear power, etc .;Think about it. "

This is not an impulse idea. As early as 1999, Xu Guangxian wrote an article for China Rare Earth Pictorial. He already saw his anxiety. At the end of the article, he pointedly pointed out that China ’s rare earth productionExisting problems, including low prices, decentralized production, low intensification, and serious waste, etc. At the same time, it is recommended to shift production to intensification, vigorously develop energy-saving industries, improve product quality, protect rare earth resources, and strengthen industry and foreign trade export management. 2001On Teacher's Day, when Vice Premier Li Lanqing went to visit Xu Guangxian, he reported these ideas to Li Lanqing.

Shanghai Jiaotong University has a "Guangxian Road"

On the campus of Shanghai Jiaotong University, there is a road called "Guangxian Road" in honor of alumnus Xu Guangxian.

In 1920, Xu Guangxian was born in a middle-class family in Shangyu, Shaoxing, Zhejiang. The Xu family and his family opened a cloth store with a strong family. However, the good times didn't last long. When Xu Guangxian was young, the cloth store was punished by his brother for gambling debts.The repayment was forced to close, and his father suffered a serious blow and died. The family's path has since fallen. After that incident, his mother often taught Xu Guangxian and other brothers: "A family has thousands of hectares, it's better to do it with one skill." Ask them to study hard., Learn technology, don't rely on family.

"This has a profound impact on my life." Xu Guangxian was so emotional in his self-narration. He studied hard since he was a child because of his mother ’s teachings. "Every day I go to school, I must be the first to go to school, and stand at the gate of the school and wait for the school early in the morning.Open the door. "

In high school, in order to get an early job, Xu Guangxian transferred to the Higher Vocational Vocational School affiliated to Zhejiang University in Hangzhou to study civil engineering. But just one year later, Hangzhou fell under the iron hoof of the Japanese invaders. Xu Guangxian had to follow the school to Ningbo Higher EducationTechnical school. This torrid schooling experience has tempered a fiery patriotism. After graduating in 1939, Xu Guangxian joined the brother who taught in Shanghai and found a job in Nanyang briquette factory.

At that time, the National Jiaotong University, known as the "Oriental Cornell", borrowed a classroom from Stanford University in the French Concession of Shanghai. Xu Guangxian was gifted in mathematics and had won the second place in the Zhejiang Provincial Juvenile Mathematical Examination.I hope to be admitted to the Jiaotong University, which is well-known in mathematics and physics teaching. He knows that the Jiaotong University curriculum is heavy and the assessment is strict, so he found a lot of exercises. In the year he worked at Nanyang Coal Pellet Factory, he took Hall and Knight's "Great Algebra", SmithAll the exercises in "Analytical Geometry" by Gail were completed. In 1940, he was successfully admitted to the Chemistry Department of the Jiaotong University, and he ranked first in the four years of study. Xu Guangxian seemed to be addicted to the problem. Graduation 1In 1945, after the victory of the War of Resistance Against Japan, the situation was slightly stable. He was hired as a teaching assistant at Jiaotong University, and took the time to complete all 498 exercises in the Principles of Chemistry by Neuss. A copy of this exercise set,Xu Guangxian donated it to his alma mater in 2009, with various formulas and calculations on it.

The four years of Jiaotong University not only laid the foundation for Xu Guangxian's study, but also contributed to his determination to return to the country. When he returned to Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2009 to make a report, Xu Guangxian talked about the journey of returning to China after receiving a doctorate from Columbia University in 1951:"The first reason for me and Gao Xiaoxia Mrs. Xu Guangxian to return to China was because of the impact of the student movement of the progressive students of the Jiaotong University from 1946 to 1947." That was when he and his classmate Gao Xiaoxia were newly married and were teaching assistants at the Jiaotong University.At that time, Xu Guangxian had decided to study in the United States and passed the National Student Examination in 1946. He first borrowed money to study chemical engineering at Washington University in the United States, and then went to Columbia University for a summer half year to try it out. Both courses were awarded full marks., So transferred to Columbia University for a PhD, majored in quantum chemistry, and was hired as a teaching assistant. Gao Xiaoxia also went to New York University to study for a degree. "I did not participate in the student movement at that time, but I think the Chinese revolution was successful and we need to build a new China, We are determined to learn a little science and technology to return home. "

In October 1949, when Chairman Mao Zedong announced the establishment of the "Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China" in Tiananmen, the news spread to the United States. Xu Guangxian and his friends couldn't hide their excitement and made a "Victory Restaurant" sign to the CentralPark picnic celebration. These people are well-known scholars who will return to participate in the construction of New China in the future.

1951, Xu Guangxian received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. At Columbia University, he ushered in the first peak of his academic career. In February 1949, he was elected as the Flamda Apexiron Honor Chemical SocietyMember, accepts a golden key to open the door to science; In October 1950, he was elected as a member of the American Honorary Society of Science and accepted a golden key again. After graduation, he can stay at Columbia University as a lecturer or be recommendedThe postdoctoral fellow of the University of Chicago. Xu Guangxian has a bright future ahead of him, but he decided to return to China.

"The first is the influence of the Jiaotong University student movement, and the second is the influence of Qian Xuesen." Xu Guangxian had a deep affection for Qian Xuesen. "When we were studying, he was already the director of the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Center. In fact,He is the number one leader in aerospace missile technology, but he is determined to return to serve the motherland. "At that time, the resistance to the United States and aid to the DPRK had begun, and Qian Xuesen's return to the country was blocked in every way.Through this, Xu Guangxian and Gao Xiaoxia may never return to the motherland.

This is also the last stage of his wife Gao Xiaoxia's PhD study. She thought about it repeatedly and said to Xu Guangxian, "Science has no borders, but scientists have the motherland." She decided to give up her doctorate and return to China with Xu Guangxian. In April 1951, theyIn the name of the overseas Chinese returning to the province, they boarded the ship and set off with the desire to build a new China.

Xu Guangxian who returned to the motherland was a teacher from beginning to end. Ji Xianlin once celebrated at the 55th anniversary of Xu Guangxian's teaching: "Peach and Li are all over the world, and morality is transmitted to all directions." For China's rare earth cause, Xu Guangxian was behindLeaving China's rare earth, there is also a rich ore of talent.

Peng Xiaoai recommended from "Global People"

Author: Zhang Dandan

Source: "East, West, North, South"

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