Yang Zhigang: Riding the winds of auto R&D
Without the return of Yang Zhigang, there would be no Shanghai Automotive Wind Tunnel Center (SAWTC) nor the rapid development of independent R&D in China’s automotive industry.
Yang, director of SAWTC at Tongji University, is a vehicle aerodynamics expert and was listed among the second batch of China’s “1000 Talent Plan”. He is also a professor and PhD supervisor at the university’s College of Automotive Studies.
Born in Northeast China’s Liaoning province in 1961, Yang came to serve as a senior researcher and a project leader at NASA in the 1980s. He was later appointed as a senior analyst and chief engineer at General Motors. His turbulence model has been widely used in the academic field of automotive aerodynamics.
In 2004, Yang returned to China and accepted a position at Tongji University as a “Yangtze River Scholar”honored by the Ministry of Education. He served as head of the technology group at the wind tunnel center.
The process of constructing the automotive wind tunnel was not easy. Over 1,500 days and nights, Yang led his research team through countless difficulties. In 2009, the wind tunnel center was finally completed and put into trials at the Jiading campus of Tongji University.
At the annual meeting for the international league of wind tunnel centers held in Holland in June 2010, The Tongji University wind tunnel was unanimously recognized and incorporated as one of the league members.
What has delighted Yang most is the ability to witness experimental auto types develop from ‘test’ to ‘exploit’ over recent years , marking a great step forward for China’s automobile manufacturing industry toward independent R&D.
Whenever foreigners visit him, Yang first introduces himself as a teacher. “The wind tunnel is only hardware, while the development and innovation of China’s automobile industry lie in its talents,” says Yang.