Smart Technology invented by Chinese Scientist Safeguards Underground Lifelines

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Recently, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development of China (MOHURD) announced the winner of the 2023 China Award for Science and Technology in Construction. The project titled “Key technologies for the prediction and control of toxic and hazardous gas production and emissions in sewer systems”, developed by Prof. Feng Jiang from Sun Yat-sen University and his collaborators, won the First Prize.

With the acceleration of urbanization, the importance of drainage pipeline systems as the “lifelines” of cities is increasingly prominent. However, hydrogen sulfide gas has become an “invisible killer” in drainage pipelines due to its rapid growth in emissions and severe corrosive effects. This not only threatens the life safety of operators but also causes huge losses to public property due to pipe corrosion. In recent years, the scale of drainage pipelines in China has rapidly expanded, leading to frequent incidents of poisoning accidents and hundreds of casualties every year. The presence of toxic and harmful gases such as hydrogen sulfide has made routine inspection and maintenance of drainage pipelines exceptionally dangerous. Additionally, the corrosiveness of hydrogen sulfide has led to widespread damage to drainage pipelines, causing significant losses to state assets.

To address the challenge of drainage safety management, Prof. Feng Jiang from Sun Yat-sen University led a team that collaborated closely with the Drainage Services Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and South China Normal University. After more than a decade of scientific and technological research, they developed smart technologies to achieve precise prediction of hydrogen sulfide emission in sewers, as well as the systematic risk-mitigation approaches. The research team successfully established a high-resolution precise prediction mathematical model capable of accurately predicting the production and discharge patterns of hydrogen sulfide. They also developed an online and rapid prediction and warning simulation system and platform, providing strong support for risk control.

The core of this technology lies in intelligent risk prediction and full life cycle control. Through intelligent prediction with a mathematical model (BISM), the production and discharge patterns of hydrogen sulfide was accurately identified, enabling targeted preventive measures. The full life-cycle risk control technology covers multiple stages including source intervention, migration transformation interception, and in-situ purification, achieving comprehensive control of toxic and harmful gas pollution in sewer networks

This technology has been widely applied in Hong Kong, Guangdong, and other regions in China, yielding significant achievements. It not only effectively reduces the occurrence of poisoning accidents, ensuring the safety of operation and maintenance workers, but also significantly extends the service life of pipelines, reducing economic losses. For example, in the case of the Hong Kong region, this technology has been successfully applied to the sewerage system of Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS), which is the world’s deepest cross-sea deep tunnel sewage pipe network system, and significantly improved the operational efficiency of drainage pipelines and avoiding casualties.

With this technological achievement, the joint research team led by Prof. Feng Jiang won the first prize of the 2023 China Award for Science and Technology in Construction, and other domestic and international awards such as the Gold Award of the International Water Association’s “Innovative Water Prize,” making outstanding contributions to the green development and safe operation of China’s urban drainage systems. It also serves as a model of technological integration and innovation between mainland China and Hong Kong.

Fig. 1 The research team won the China Award for Science and Technology in Construction 2023 (First Prize)

Fig. 2 The Smart Technology solved the risk management problem in HATS deep tunnel sewer system in Hong Kong