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About 6th Symposium on SHS,
17 – 21 February, 2002, Haifa, Israel

2. Interview with Prof. A.G.Merzhanov, General Chairman of the Organizing Committee

The VI International Symposium on self-propagating high-temperature synthesis (SHS) was held at Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa on February 17-21. SHS as a combustion process forming valuable products was invented in Russia. Our correspondent met General Chairman of the Organizing Committee, an author of the above mentioned process academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Professor A.G. Merzhanov and asked him some questions.

Question: What do you think of the scientific program of the Symposium? Does it fit the modern state-of-art in your problem?
Answer: The scientific program of the Symposium consisted of two parts. The first one included reports (lectures) invited by the Organizing Committee. They were delivered by outstanding scientists well known all over the world. Professors J. Puscynski (USA), Yu. Maksimov (Russia), F.Bernard (France) presented mini-reviews of actual problems of SHS (short for self-propagating high-temperature synthesis). Professors E. Rumanov (Russia), L. Kagan (Israel), R.Pampuch (Poland), B. Matkowsky (USA) and others delivered invited keynote lectures in Sessions and demonstrated achievements in some directions of SHS (theory and mathematical modeling, advanced ceramics, etc.).

Also, there were four lectures in modern materials science in our program. They do not strictly met the subjects of the Symposium but were of a great interest for the participants.

On the first day of the Symposium, a splendid lecture “Trends in Ceramic Materials Development into the Third Millennium” was delivered by Prof. Richard Brook (UK). He is a prominent specialist in materials science, the former adviser of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in science. Prof. Brook is a very busy man, but he managed to come in the morning, delivered the lecture, and went back home in the evening. The participants of our Symposium considered it as a profound respect for our problem.

Very interesting lectures were made by Prof. R. Tenne (Israel), Prof. F. Aldinger (Germany), Prof. R. Cahn (UK). Their contribution to the scientific program of the Symposium is appreciable.

An “initiative” part of the program was also attractive. Many of the reports were of a keen interest for the participants. Besides, so called “Round Tables”, i.e., discussion of specific problems, were a success too. Professors I. Borovinskaya, R. Pampuch, A Rogachev, V. Barzykin, V. Yukhvid managed to make the audience active and the discussion lively and efficient.

On the whole, the program appeared to be interesting and reflected the state-of-art in the problem.

Question: What are the main results of the Symposium?
Answer: The Symposium has proved that our R&D area is being actively developed. A great progress is observed in such directions as mechanochemistry of SHS processes, structure formation of combustion products, physical effects on products and processes, development of ceramic and compound materials, etc. There are certain achievements in the field of industrialization and commercialization of SHS. The Chinese large-scale production of pipes with wear-resistant internal coating for abrasive material transportation, and the Spanish-Russian plant of ceramic SHS powders are the most impressive examples in this field.

Besides, the SHS was shown to become an acknowledged direction of the modern materials science. Not only specialists in SHS but also investigators of materials science and other fields became interested in our meetings.

Question: What can you tell us about the SHS investigation carried out by your colleagues from Israel?
Answer: Of course, it’s only the beginning. It’s early to speak seriously about Israeli school of SHS. But there is a direct evidence of their success. The investigations carried out by the team of Professors Gutmanas and Gotman in synthesizing multiphase ceramics and composite materials under the mode of thermal explosion under pressure (it’s a type of SHS) provided the work with its own worth and allowed the authors to occupy a small but their own place in the theory and practice of SHS processes. And I am pleased to mention young researchers working in this team with enthusiasm.

We hope that our Symposium and the fact that it was held in Haifa will draw the attention of new Israeli researchers and engineers to our problem and promote the development of this R&D area in this country.

Question: We know that a large delegation from Russia attended the Symposium. What aroused such interest to it?
Answer: It is really so that fifty four people came to Haifa from Russia and other republics of the former USSR. No wonder. The Russian delegations were always numerous at all the Symposia. Even the II Symposium in the far-away Hawaii was attended by 32 Russian specialists. Such number of the Russians at the same time had never been seen there before.

It can be easily explained. SHS was discovered and developed in Russia and only then entered the international scene. Without false modesty can we say that SHS in Russia is a national property. A lot of work is carried out here, and there are a lot of scientists who can properly present their research results in international forums.

Question: How did the complicated political situation in Israel affect the Symposium? Are you satisfied with the work of the local Organizing Committee under such conditions?
Answer: Undoubtedly, the conflict between the Arabians and the Israelites in Palestine, and next, the tragic events in the USA frightened many participants. The Symposium had to be postponed till February, 2002 (first it had to be held in October last year). But in spite of that, many well known specialists from Japan, USA, China, Europe refused to come because no security was ensured. It was a hard blow to the work of the Organizing Committee. The program had to be changed. But it kept its attractiveness and the Symposium went off very successfully. I think that many specialists who did not come will regret about it.

Under such conditions, the main organizers Irena Gotman , Elazar Gutmanas, and Alexander Sychev managed to save our Symposium due to their persistence. As for me, I think I took a right stand. On the whole, the Symposium was a success.

Question: What’s your impression of Israel and Israelites?
Answer: It was not my first visit to your wonderful country. Many years ago I attended the Symposium on Heat and Mass Transfer in Jerusalem. The impressions of the city were indelible. That is why, I agree with the participants of our Symposium who were delighted with their excursion to Jerusalem. I think that everyone must visit the Holy Land even if once a life. For the second time, I came to Israel with the Coordinator of our Symposium A.E. Sychev with the purpose of organizing the Symposium in April last year. Of course, I went sightseeing to all the places suggested for the excursion. I still remember my trip to the Jordan River, a borderline between Israel and Lebanon, the town of Akko. We made a lot of pictures and exhibited them in Internet. They seem to say: Look! How quiet it is here! We knew that Israel is rich in traditions, there are a lot of things to look at and to learn. But the reality exceeded all expectations.

As to Israelites (at least, those whom we met), they are very kind, self-confident, highly intellectual people who really can work and live (What inflammatory dances we saw at the embankment in Haifa!). And we felt quiet and confident there.

Question: And the last question. I know that the leaders of Technion presented you with a silver bar with the inscription To Father of SHS. Did you like the gift?
Answer: Certainly. I was really touched by the bar and the inscription.