Save for a Rainy Day

Save for a Rainy Day_HKUST Professor Charles Ng prevents damage from debris flow_photo

HKUST researchers are leading to prevent damage from debris flow with a multidisciplinary international effort.


The risk posed by landslide debris is a cause for concern around the world, and nowhere more so than in Hong Kong. With an abundance of steep slopes, a dense population and heavy rainfall, the city is no stranger to the disastrous effects of landslides.

Prof. Charles Ng, Associate Vice-President (Research and Graduate Studies) and Chair Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at HKUST, is leading a theme-based research team seeking to address that situation. Backed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and drawing together international expertise in areas ranging from engineering to ecology, the team is developing a simple-to-install flexible barrier system to halt debris flows in landslides.

Prof. Ng said that the team was breaking new ground with no previous examples to draw on, but that the outcome would be a highly valuable system providing cost savings and lessening the environmental impact of landslide mitigation measures.

With a world-leading testing facility currently being built in a Kunming, Yunnan, the team is looking to produce a system that will cost around HK$12,000 per meter run, less than a quarter of that for the reinforced concrete walls currently dotting the Hong Kong landscape. They are also developing a novel three-dimensional system to analyze how debris moves, and the state-of-the-art simulating debris flow in a geotechnical centrifuge at HKUST.

The results of these investigations will have worldwide implications, with improvements in understanding particulate flow promising to advance risk mitigation in areas such snow avalanches and mine tailing dams, with food processing another possible beneficiary.

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