A chemistry postdoctoral researcher was killed in some sort of explosion or fire at Tsinghua University on Friday, according to a post by the university on the microblogging site Weibo. If other media reports are correct, the deceased postdoc is Xiangjian Meng, and he joined the university in 2014 after
many years at the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences completing his Ph.D. at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore.
The university has not released any details about the incident. A couple of early news reports mentioned tert-butyllithium as a possible culprit and another referenced an “organic catalysis experiment.” Chinese media reports on Sunday pointed to hydrogen as the culprit, so perhaps it was a hydrogenation reaction?
Various stories (translations courtesy of Google):
- Nature, Dec. 18 – Postdoc dies in lab fire at Tsinghua University
- Daily Mail, Dec. 18 – Terrifying moment thick smoke billows out of university chemical lab as toxic explosion killed postdoctoral researcher in China
- Shanghai Daily, Dec. 18 – Postdoctoral researcher killed in lab blast at Tsinghua University
- on.cc, Dec. 18 – Tsinghua University postdoctoral laboratory explosion and fire killed Staff
- Xinhuanet, Dec. 19 – Tsinghua University lab explosion occurs in hydrogen experiment
- Shanghaiist, Dec. 19 – Tsinghua University explosion kills researcher as lab experiment goes wrong
- ScienceNet, Dec. 19 – Tsinghua University postdoctoral laboratory fire killed
- CRI, Dec. 19 – Tsinghua University Lab Explosion Occurs in Hydrogen Experiment
- China Daily, Dec. 19 – Department of Tsinghua University postdoctoral do chemistry experiments with hydrogen explosion and Student killed in chemistry lab blast
- Asia One, Dec. 20 – China uni student killed in chemistry lab blast
- Ecns.cn, Dec. 20 – Tsinghua University lab explosion occurs in hydrogen experiment
- China News, Dec. 20 – Tsinghua University chemistry lab explosion track: Postdoctoral do experiments with hydrogen gas explosion
- Chengdu Business Daily, Dec. 20 – Tsinghua University chemistry laboratory building explosion killed a postdoctoral
- Guizhou Daily, Dec. 20 – Department of Chemistry, Tsinghua University laboratory explosion killed 32-year-old postdoctoral spot
- cnBeta, Dec. 21 – Tsinghua postdoctoral were killed: explosives non-tertiary-butyl lithium – Google’s translation is pretty mangled, but seems to say that Meng’s family posted on Weibo denying that tert-butyllithium was involved but giving no other incident information (this looks like it might be the Weibo page)
- China Daily, Dec. 21 – Ministry of Education reminds education departments of safety
And a thread on reddit chemistry: Wow. Fire/Explosion leads to PostDoc death at Tsinghua University
Update: I have heard from a reader that there were two people named Xiangjian Meng at Tsinghua. The deceased Meng was a postdoc who had done his Ph.D. work at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore. The other is member of the teaching staff who worked previously at Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics. I apologize for originally misidentifying them.