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【Featured Story】Yang Yantao: Seeking to Improve the Quality of Research

2018-03-19 11:20:22

Yang Yantao

Back to Peking University after Four Years

In 2000, Yang Yantao, with his strong interest in physics, enrolled into the Department of Mechanics and Engineering Science of Peking University. He had spent 13 years studying at Peking University by then.

In 2017, Yang Yantao went back to Peking University from the Netherlands, and became the distinguished research fellow of the Department of Mechanics and Engineering Science and Institute of Ocean Research of Peking University.

"There is such a huge improvement of students, faculties and the quality of facilities, compared with that in 2013 at Peking University," Yang Yantao was marveled at these changes, "Students are more active in thought and more energetic. I believe that they can make greater progress than our generation." He also encourages his students to follow their own interests and forge ahead. "A teacher has the responsibility of showing students all the possibilities, no matter what the research area they choose in the future."

Focuses on Exploring the Ocean

Yang Yantao's advisor was Professor Wu Jiezhi(吴介之) and Yang Yantao mainly devoted himself to the research of vortex dynamics and turbulence in his undergraduate and PhD study. After years of exploration, he set his research areas on double-diffusive convection and buoyancy-driven turbulence. "Advisor's opinions can play an important role in choosing the research topic, as they are much farther sighted than students," Yang Yantao said.

"Informally speaking, the dynamics of fluid is to find out the phenomenon and rules of the fluid motion. There are many branches of research, for example, the flow of blood in the human's body is a kind of biological fluid. In the beginning, I mainly focused on the research of compressible turbulence which is relevant to astrophysics, but now, my research is mainly on the phenomenon of flows related to the ocean."

In Yang's opinion, the research on the oceanic flows is significant. Ocean has great influence on the climate and the environment of the earth, and the macro-flow of the ocean will accelerate the process of the mixture of substances and conduction of heat. If the ocean does not flow, it will take over 10 thousand years to conduct the heat of substance from the surface to the bottom of the sea. So that the macro-flow of the ocean is a crucial mechanism that determines the distribution of heat and substances all over the world.

"Now, I mainly focus on the vertical mixing phenomena caused by double-diffusive convection in the upper seawater." That is the program Yang had been doing when he was in the Netherlands, and he got interesting conclusion from that research: "If you heat water from the bottom, the hot water will flow upward. If you dissolve the salt into water from the top, the salty water sinks, as the saltier the liquid is, the heavier it will become. When I study this system, I heat up the upper water while adding salt at the same time; if you heat the water alone, the fluid layer stays stable and no convection happens, while if you add the salt alone, it would drive the flow of fluid. However, when these two processes happen at the same time, the heating of upper water would boost the transportation of salt downward." The result of this research was published in PNAS and can be applied in many areas. Recently, he realized the multiple layer state of the double diffusive convection in (sub-) tropical ocean by using direct numerical simulations at very large-scale, e.g. see the figure below.



There are three different layers in the vertical direction

Persists in Research and Always Forges Ahead

In 2013, Yang Yantao started the postdoc research at the Physics of Fluids Group, Twente University in the Netherland. He believes that the greatest benefit from this experience was that he had broadened his academic horizon, and was inspired to improve the quality of academic research. Yang determined to make achievements in scientific research, and to apply them to meet the needs of Chinese industry.

In the future, Yang Yantao will continue his research on the Buoyancy-driven convection and the numerical simulation. Doing research day by day is boring and tiring. According to Yantao Yang, "It takes great efforts to make great achievements in any areas. Actually, in the realm of research, what you choose to do is far more important than what you can do. Do not always think about what you can do, instead, you should consider what you should do and what is meaningful to do."

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