China's national science and technology week started on Saturday and will run until Aug 27, featuring exhibitions and events showcasing the latest scientific and technological achievements, from giant drones shaped like a dragonfly, to tiny artificial intelligence chips.
The annual event has become China's largest science popularization extravaganza, hosting over 1.2 million activities and attracting 1.8 billion participants since its launch in 2001.
Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang said during the opening ceremony in Beijing on Saturday that this year's event marks several milestones for China, among them the anniversary of implementing the amended Science and Technology Progress Law, as well as the 20th anniversary of the Law on the Popularization of Science and Technology.
As a result, 28 provincial-level regions and 20 government ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, are participating this year.
"The events will celebrate the scientific spirit and share scientific knowledge and methods with the public," Wang said. "This will promote a culture that respects the knowledge, talent, innovation and work of scientists."
At the main venue in Beijing's Tongzhou district, a blend of hard science and interesting gadgets fill the exhibition hall. These include insect-inspired machines for use in surveillance and rescue missions and a robot barista that can draw coffee art on a latte.
In the section on technologies used to combat COVID-19, one notable example is a mobile lab with a robotic arm to collect throat swabs, process samples within the vehicle, and produce results in 45 minutes.
Li Teng, an employee of Capital-Bio Technology, said that with access to a standard 220-volt outlet, the vehicle can accurately, conveniently and swiftly test the public, expanding coverage into less accessible communities.
One of the main sections of the exhibit showcases technologies used during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, including the robot used during the world's first underwater Olympic torch relay.
Sun Honglin, an employee of the Shenyang Institute of Automation at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that after the Olympics, scientists have been using the robot in underwater oil and gas investigations at depths of around 300 meters.
On the civilian front, a hydrogen fuel cell engine has caught the eye of many attendees. Developed by Beijing SinoHytec, it has a power rating of 240 kilowatts or around 321 horsepower.
Zhang Shuhao, an employee at China Hydrogen Energy Technology, said that hydrogen can play a key role in helping China achieve its twin carbon goals of peaking carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and becoming carbon neutral before 2060.
"Pure hydrogen is one of the cleanest renewable energy sources because burning it only produces water, and it has a very high energy efficiency," he said. However, producing pure hydrogen cheaply at an industrial scale remains a major engineering challenge, limiting its practicality.
To tackle the issue, Zhang said that his company had created a method of converting methanol, a common industrial product that can be made from coal, into pure hydrogen using catalysts.
"China is rich in coal but lacking in oil and gas, so if we use our coal resources cleanly and more efficiently, it will help safeguard energy security and benefit the environment," he added.