October 20-25, 2014. All staff and several guests met at the SynCat@Beijing Workshop in Huairou near Beijing. Synfuels China hosted the workshop in their headquarters, which enabled us to see the nearby SynCat@Beijing building. As it is close to completion now, an important aim of the workshop was to devise plans for the individual laboratories and infrastructure, and to work on the Research Program.

On the left: Impressions from the lab tour; On the right: The future management team of SynCat@Beijing (left to right: dr Jose Gracia, Program Coordinator; Prof Hans Niemantsverdriet, Research Director; dr Xiaodong Wen, Program Coordinator; dr Jian Xu, Management Director)

A number of famous speakers was invited to present tutorials and lectures on recent work, to provide inspiration. The program, which started with a wonderful welcome dinner on Monday evening in the Cineaste Hotel, was formally opened by Professor Yong-Wang Li, who presented an impressive overview of Synfuels China and its technology. Professor Mike Bowker (Cardiff) gave a tutorial on photocatalysis and Dr Jens Rostrup-Nielsen (formerly Haldor Topsoe, Denmark) on the various technologies for hydrogen production. Scanning tunneling microscopy was explained in great detail by Professor Jeppe Lauritsen from iNano, Aarhus, and Transmission Electron Microscopy was presented by Professor Abhaya Datye, University of New Mexico, with special attention for the mechanisms of sintering. Professor Michael Claeys (University of Cape Town) astonished all by the richness of the Fischer-Tropsch product spectrum, which he measures by two-dimensional gas-chromatography, while Professor Haijun Jiao gave an overview of molecular modeling opportunities for Fischer-Tropsch reactions. Recent results were presented by Ren Su on photocatalysis, Gilbere Mannie on thin iron carbides and Chenghua Zhang on his in situ Mossbauer studies. 

On the left: Dr Gilbere Mannie presenting results from his work at iNANO in Aarhus; On the right: Mr Jan Karel Felderhof reported on the latest development of the Scientific Leadership program and gave his vision on future activities. In the middle (bottom): Prof Hans Niemantsverdriet talking to the audience during the official opening of the workshop; In the middle (top): Prof. Yong-wang Li, Founder and General Manager of Synfuels China, Guest speaker Prof. Micheal Claeys and dr Jian Xu during a tour through the Synfuels China Laboratories.

A session entitled “What do we mean by Fundamental Research” was introduced by Dr Jens Rostrup-Nielsen, who warned for the pitfalls of fashionable activities, that follow the trends at conferences and publications, but too often result in disappointing work under the nominator “inapplicable applied research.” Professors Li and Niemantsverdriet stressed that SynCat@Beijing should be a place where people want to make the difference by doing unique research. It is understood that this needs time, and that pressure in the form of key performance indicators (so many papers per year per person) give the wrong stimuli. SynCat@Beijing should be a place where people can take the time to invest in order to produce high quality research with the aim to provide deep insight and impact in the scientific world.


The social component of the program was as important as the scientific, as many of the group will move to and live in Huairou. Jan-Karel Felderhof organized several discussion groups on the planning of social activities, and of course also on his specialism, personal development. An evening reception in the YangSong offered everyone the opportunity to take a look in the apartments where future SynCat staff will be accommodated. A tour to the Great Wall with a fish barbecue dinner at Mutianyu was another welcome break in the rather full program. A spontaneously organized karaoke revealed unexpected talents in singing, among staff and guests. 

The workshop ended with a Friday morning full of activities to “plan the perfect laboratory” and a variety of individual meetings. The workshop was concluded with a farewell lunch in the Cineaste Hotel, with another great Chinese meal, of which we had so many this week. It was considered a great success by everyone, which was also largely built on the great hospitality of our host, Synfuels China, and the hard and dedicates work of the organizers.

Prior to the workshop, a recruitment event was held. High profile candidates were invited for presentations and interviews.  Three job offers for SynCat@Beijing have been filed.

Published on: December 2, 2014