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Obituary – Prof. Zhijian Shen

A shining star in the materials world has faded away. Prof. Zhijian Shen, a WAC Academician elected in 2017, passed away on 2 May 2021 in Stockholm, Sweden, at the age of 59.

Born in 1961 in Wuxi, China, Prof. Shen graduated from Wuhan University of Technology in 1982 for his bachelor s degree and in 1985 for his master s degree respectively, where he became one of the pioneers in China working on X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (XAFS). He started his 30-year journey with zirconia in Zhejiang University, China, where he obtained his PhD degree in 1990 under the supervision of Prof. Zishang Ding. In 1993, he moved to the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry, Stockholm University, Sweden as a researcher working along with Prof. Thommy Ekström and Prof. Mats Nygren. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1999 and Full Professor in 2007.

Prof. Shen s main research focus was the mechanism of nonequilibrium rapid sintering of ceramics, covering a wide range of ceramics in terms of composition and function. Major contributions include: a) the theory of dynamic ripening, which is regarded as a fundamental step forward in SiAlON ceramics, b) ordered coalescence, where self-assembly of nanocrystallites along preferred directions would dominate rather than atomic diffusion for grain growth, and c) Sintering under Intense Thermal Radiation (SITR), which reveals that sintering of nanoceramics can be accomplished within minutes by intense thermal radiation only. During his career, he published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and contributed to several monographs and book chapters as well as countless invited talks in workshops and conferences.

Inspired by Prof. Matts Andersson, inventor of the Procera dental ceramics system, Prof. Shen dedicated most of his career to the pursuit of better zirconia ceramics for dental restoration. The final precious gift, self-glazed zirconia, enables the production of monolithic zirconia restorations ready for final clinical operation by industrial digital manufacturing directly, without any traditional handcraft work on the milled restoration. As a result, a full-digital workflow is on the horizon that could significantly promote the performance of zirconia in dentistry and overall efficiency of the whole restoration process.

Prof. Shen is widely recognized as a kind, active and warm-hearted friend in our ceramic community. He was the initiator of the series of International Workshops on Advanced Ceramics and Technologies for Dentistry (ACT4D) in 2011, a previous editorial board member of JECS, and a bridge in the field of materials science between China and Europe. May he rest in peace. We will all miss those brilliant ideas and generous help from him along with his iconic smile.

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