Self-cleaning glass launches Fu on a shining path

Fu Yicheng, a machinery sophomore at the Sino-British College in the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, was voted as champion for invention of self-cleaning glass.

A local university student was selected to be one of five ambassadors for China’s bid to host the WorldSkills Competition (an international competition known as skills Olympics) in Shanghai in 2021 due to his outstanding performance in a televised invention competition.

Fu Yicheng, now a machinery sophomore at the Sino-British College in the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, was voted as champion by web users in a 2014 competition called “Junior Edison” for his invention of self-cleaning glass.

Fu Yicheng, a machinery sophomore at the Sino-British College

Fu told Shanghai Daily that he had read an article about the structure of lotus leaf and learned that the design and the wax on the leaf surface enabled it to clean itself in rainy days without any waterlogging.

So when he saw spider-men cleaning glass walls of high-rise building, an idea came into his mind.

“The job is risky, so why not invent some glass like the lotus leaves so that rains can take away the dust away, or we just have to pour water from the rooftop?” he said.

The question stayed with him, but he had no idea of a solution until he read an article on a science website describing the structure of a kind of ash produced in incomplete combustion of metal net, which was similar to the surface structure of lotus leaves.

It inspired him to produce glass with bionic lotus coating. So when his teacher at the Jianping High School asked students to do some innovative programs, he immediately picked this topic.

To realize his vision, Fu spent almost a whole year in reading Chinese and English material and doing experiments. He even visited the school lab every day and stayed there all day through the summer vacation, selecting materials, finding out the best distance between the burning metal net and the glass for coating, and testing his products again and again in an outdoor environment with wind, rain and sunlight.

He used hundreds of pieces of glass and countless candles before succeeding. 

“Failure is a part of research, and I would not feel dull as long as I am eager to seek the answers,” he said. 

And his hard work paid off. On his glass, water drops are as round as those on real leaves, while water dropped on ordinary glass spreads flat. When his glass is tilt, the water drops run down quickly, bringing away the dust on surface without leaving any waterlogging. It is impossible for ordinary glass.

The product not only surprised his teacher, but also the judges and audience of the competition, as well as the organizers of the event.

The director of the program was so impressed that she recommended Fu as an ambassador for China’s WorldSkills bid nearly three years later.

The bid committee finally chose him as he had well demonstrated qualities of the people they were seeking — including an innovative spirit and practical ability.

A screen shot of Fu Yicheng’s invention of self-cleaning glass

After entering the Sino-British College in the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Fu tried to keep developing his program. He has a patent for his invention and plans to attend another innovation competition for college students, hoping to commercialize it.

Fu plans to seek a Master’s degree in machinery in the US and wants to be an engineer.

He said he had thought vocational schools were only for students with a poor academic performance.

But after he was elected as an ambassador for China to apply for hosting the WorldSkills Competition and learned more about vocational education and training in Shanghai, he now thinks differently.

“The sureness and perseverance I saw in vocational students and workers are just what I need in study and research. They also deserve our respect,” he said. 

“As an ambassador, I also hope I can change other people’s stereotypes of vocational careers. I think if we all believe that university is not the only way for success, future students will have wider choices in their life and people will respect skills more,” Fu added.

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