Zhou Zhen and his mass spectrometer army

Mass spectrometry instruments are large-scale high-end instruments, involving multidisciplinary theoretical knowledge, professional techniques and complex processes, and require extensive experience in machine development. No wonder some people insist on the "pragmatic" view of "what mass spectrometers are used to buy from abroad." However, Zhou Zhen did not believe that he chose this thorny road and did not give up the Chinese mass spectrometer.

        In the face of the challenge of preventing PM2.5 pollution, one of the first problems that people must understand is how to find out the source of PM2.5 pollutants in real time and quickly. Guangzhou Woxin Analytical Instrument Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Hexin Mass Spectrometer) is a self-developed "online single particle aerosol mass spectrometer" which is one of the sharp tools - it can directly obtain pollution source information within 1 hour, realizing short time Judging the source of pollution, without the need for sample pre-treatment, the training speed is increased by 1000 times, while the cost is reduced by 100 times.

         “In 2007, Hexin Mass Spectrometry focused on the development of large-scale high-end mass spectrometry core technologies for atmospheric ash and PM2.5 pollution. In the meantime, we received guidance from a number of academicians and also received support from the national '863' program. Zhou Zhen, general manager of Hexin Mass Spectrometry and selected for the 2013 Innovative Talent Promotion Program, told the Journal of Chinese Journal of Science and Technology.

        The "scientific name" of the mass spectrometer is "time-of-flight mass spectrometer". The development of such large-scale high-end instruments involves multidisciplinary theoretical knowledge, professional techniques and complex processes, as well as extensive experience in machine development. No wonder some people insist on the "pragmatic" view of "what mass spectrometers are used to buy from abroad." However, Zhou Zhen did not believe that he chose this thorny road and did not give up the Chinese mass spectrometer.

         "Being a Chinese mass spectrometer", this wish is deeply branded in Zhou Zhen's heart for more than 20 years. Now, Zhou Zhen and his mass spectrometer are practicing their dreams one step at a time: starting from a box of materials, a box of parts, from hundreds of thousands of dollars in research funding and a team of four people, Hexin Mass Spectrometry has gone through 11 years. It has become a team with an output value of 100 million yuan and three completely independent intellectual property rights.



Mass spectrometer "does not do"

         “Why do mass spectrometers?” I don’t know how many people have asked Zhou Zhen.

“In the national economy, more than 60% of the fields involve the use of mass spectrometry for monitoring, such as food, environment, drugs, national security, etc. In many respects, mass spectrometry plays an important and decisive role. Facing huge mass spectrometry In the instrument market, 99% of the products we must rely on imports.” Zhou Zhen speaks with numbers. “There are hundreds of kinds of mass spectrometers in the world. However, there are only five or six mass spectrometers in China that can be produced by themselves.”

“Why can't we break this passive situation?” When Zhou Zhen was an undergraduate student at Xiamen University more than 20 years ago, he began to ponder this matter.

        Later, when he entered the postgraduate stage and went to the Institute of Applied Physics at Giessen University in Germany, he was fortunate to continue his research on mass spectrometry. What excites Zhou Zhen is that he has been exposed to advanced mass spectrometer concepts and techniques during his studies abroad. Learning has made Zhou Zhen quite full. Similarly, the feelings of this time have made him feel time-critical, and the domestic mass spectrometer field needs to arise. There are many difficulties in passing through.

         "I like to concentrate on one thing." Zhou Zhen said. The development of scientific instruments is highly integrated in many disciplines. "Especially mass spectrometry instruments, it is not an exaggeration for a person to study for a lifetime."

        In 2000, Zhou Zhen successfully developed the highest-resolution vertical-introduction time-of-flight mass spectrometer at the time. Advances in technology have made Zhou Zhen feel closer to achieving the desire in his heart.

        "I don't want to do industrialization of mass spectrometers. Our country is no longer subject to people in this field!" Zhou Zhen's "straight line" thinking made him quit his life in the United States, with a box of information and a box of parts, and The most advanced time-of-flight mass spectrometer technology and scientific methods in the country are full of passion to return to China.



"I lost 4 and retained 4"

        After returning to China, Zhou Zhen began research on the industrialization of mass spectrometers with a donation of 200,000 yuan sponsored by a friend. The development of high-end scientific instruments such as mass spectrometers is difficult to carry out without the support of millions of dollars; from the laboratory to the small test, the pilot test, and finally the industrialization, there are no tens of millions of dollars and an unshakable team. possible.

        He is very clear that he faces a huge and difficult problem like a mountain. "It's rather slow, but it can't stop." Zhou Zhen is very determined, and the first step will be the second step.

        At the 4th China Guangzhou International Student Science and Technology Exchange Conference held in 2002, Zhou Zhen introduced experts from science and education to the mass spectrometer that he was working on.

        "Who is going to do a mass spectrometer? How is this possible?" At the same time, the academician Fu Jiaxuan of the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, after hearing about this incident, was very interested in the young man who "biased the Tiger Mountain."

        Therefore, Zhou Zhen spoke to his academician Fu Jiaxuan. "In two days, Academician Fu Jiaxuan decided to support us in the development of mass spectrometers." Zhou Zhen was extremely excited. At the same time, after being matched by Fu Jiaxuan, he was hired as a researcher at the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

        The result of this “change” is: after two years of research, Zhou Zhen and the team successfully developed the first time-of-flight mass spectrometer in Guangdong Province.

        In 2004, Hexin Mass Spectrometry was established. At that time, Zhou Zhen team only had him with an assistant and two graduate students. At that time, in addition to knowledge, it can be said that this team is poor and white. "What is more serious is that there are no professional mass spectrometry manufacturers in China, and they are technically far from the international level." Therefore, they are faced with technology and industry. Difficulties, everything starts from scratch.

        In 2006, Zhou Zhen team suffered a "cold flow": "We have no money, and there are only 20,000 yuan left in the company's account." So, he sold the real estate and the car, "not afraid of slow progress, the team must be stable."

        It’s still coming. The slowly expanding team showed a wave of swaying elements, and the four young people who joined later began to question the “mass spectrometer dream” and eventually chose to leave. "At that time, we lost four people and returned to the original four people 'institution'."

        At that time, Zhou Zhen’s home was the kitchen of everyone, and everyone was like a family. "Because we firmly believe that our dreams will be realized." Zhou Zhen said.

        In 2009, Zhou Zhen team encountered another spring breeze: Guangzhou Science and Technology Venture Capital invested 5 million yuan in them. What is even more exciting for the Zhou Zhen team is that the development of mass spectrometers has received more attention, and more and more support funds are being continuously injected.

        "As a result, the team has been expanding, and the core technology and key processes of mass spectrometry have been overcome." Zhou Zhen said. At present, Hexin Mass Spectrometry has fully mastered the core technology of time-of-flight mass spectrometry with complete independent intellectual property rights and a completely set of assembly processes. Many mass spectrometry technologies and products have filled the gap in the domestic and international mass spectrometry field and the high-end environmental protection instrument industry.

In the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games air quality assurance, the 2012 North Guangdong blood lead accident traceability, "Dongfanghong II" Huang Haohai scientific research and other large-scale field experiments, Zhou Zhen team played with their developed mass spectrometer Actively, it fully realizes key functions such as rapid data processing and online dynamic source resolution.

        At present, Hexin Mass Spectrometer has built China's first time-of-flight mass spectrometer instrument development platform and industrialization base, and successfully developed eight mass spectrometers for different application fields. Among them, one instrument is the first in the world, one has reached the level of international commodity instruments, and one has reached the domestic leading level, and many products have broken the international blockade.

        “Now, our team has nearly 200 people. In the next few years, we will launch two or three commercial mass spectrometers, and the overall technical level is the first in China or the first in the world.” Zhou Zhen said.

    There is no mature mass spectrometry industry in China, so it is difficult for professionals to recruit. Therefore, Zhou Zhen is still doing another thing: training mass spectrometry talents. He relied on universities and research institutes for talent training. He has trained dozens of graduate students at Shanghai University, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jinan University and South China University of Technology. At the same time, students can also go to Hexin MS internship. "We have two-way choices. People who like mass spectrometry have the opportunity to stay, and the talents we need can continue to be cultivated."

        "As a high-level overseas talent introduction, my mission is not limited to a few products or a few enterprises. Thousands of thousands of people have thousands of years, we encourage more people to focus on the development of high-end scientific instrument industry such as mass spectrometer." Zhou Zhen said.


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