TEDxDelft 2015 Speaker | Shou-En Zhu | Getting to grips with graphene

There is a Chinese dream whereby education is the key to secure one’s brighter future. Shou-En Zhu was one of the millions of Chinese taking part in the rural-urban migration in order to receive this good education.

Having grown up in a small, rural village in China, Zhu was sent to a good primary school in Fuzhou city, the capital of Fujian Province by his father, who strongly subscribed to the Chinese dream. When asked of his inspiration as a child, he described his former self as “not having too much plan”. That, however, changed during his Bachelor years when he was acquainted with the prospect of a game-changing material: graphene.

In pursuit of his interest, Zhu went on to attend several universities. These include a Master exchange program at Sungkyunkwan University in Korea, PhD guest programs in Leiden University and ETH Zurich, as well as a Visiting Research Scholarship at UC San Diego.

Currently, Zhu is a PhD candidate at TU Delft. The university’s unique education system has pushed him to go above and beyond. “When I first arrived, I was really alone and you need really to be independent to overcome the reiteration of frustrations,” he recalled. “But this environment is very good.”

Zhu understood the lack of development in graphene and with this insight, he managed to design and construct sophisticated graphene production equipment from scratch. When trying to reminisce about his ordeal, Zhu shared the influential teachings of a  former chairman of the Department of Material Science in Jilin University that kept him going: “If all of the people in this new field are sprouts, you have to grow a little bit taller than the rest, to get more sun and to grow into a large tree.”

His pioneering prototype eventually gave birth to Graphene Master, a startup company that provides research prototyping device fabrication all over the world. Ultimately, Zhu aims to reduce the cost of graphene and to be able to penetrate into the mass market.

Zhu has always dreamt of speaking at a prestigious TED event and finally has opportunity to do so at the upcoming TEDxDelft conference. According to the PhD researcher, graphene is truly a new field. “People hear about graphene, but most of them are not familiar of the practical application of graphene,” he claims. Zhu sincerely hopes that his talk will be a catalyst to raise everyone’s awareness of the new material and to spark interesting conversations about it.