Obituary for Professor Khi-Rui Tsai

Professor Khi-Rui Tsai, a prominent professor of Xiamen University and a member of Chinese Academy of Sciences, passed away peacefully on October 3rd 2016 in Xiamen at his age of 104.

Professor Tsai is a famous physical chemist and catalysis scientist. He is a pioneer of coordination catalysis and molecular catalysis in China. In 1960s, he developed theoretical concepts of catalysis by coordination activation, and applied the principles of coordination catalysis to correlate several types of homogeneous catalysis, heterogeneous catalysis and metallo-enzyme catalysis systems. In 1970s, he and Prof. Jia-Xi Lu proposed independently, from different approaches, essentially similar cluster-structural models of Mo-nitrogenase active centers and multi-nuclear coordination activation of various types of known substrates of nitrogenase. Professor Tsai led a team at Xiamen University with an aim to bridge the gap between enzyme catalysis and heterogeneous catalysis since 1970s. He and his co-workers systematically carried out comparative studies on the models of active centers and reaction mechanisms for nitrogenase enzymes and for heterogeneous ammonia-synthesis catalysts. The team also studied the effects of ionic promoters in N2 hydrogenation to ammonia and CO hydrogenation to methanol and ethanol. Professor Tsai proposed a unique mechanism for the direct conversion of syngas to ethanol. Up to 1997, Professor Tsai published more than 200 research articles. He got three times the State Natural Science Award owing to his outstanding contribution to catalysis science. In 1999, he was awarded the He-Liang-He-Li Foundation Award for Progress in Science and Technology.

In addition to the scientific activity, Professor Tsai also served as a member of the 3rd national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the deputy to the 3rd, 4th and 5th National People’s Congress and a member of the Academic Degree Commission of the State Council. He was the vice president of Xiamen University and the director of the Scientific Academic Committee of Xiamen University. Professor Tsai also served as a council member of International Association of Catalysis Societies (IACS). Professor Tsai is also a big educator. He was a remarkable ambassador for Xiamen University and a shining example of what all educators should aspire to be. He imbued his students with firm ideals and beliefs, provided them with a strong moral compass, guided them using his incredible wealth of knowledge, and treated them all with benevolence.

Professor Tsai’s passing is a massive loss not only to Xiamen University but also to the catalysis community in China. Professor Tsai will be greatly missed by his family, friends, colleagues, students and those who work in catalysis field.