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Where EAST meets the Northwest

   

UP AND AWAY. Korean engineers worked alongside their French counterparts to design and build the Korean Express, more popularly known as KTX. To enable the train to reach maximum speeds, the streamlined shape of the train’s "nose" is adapted from nature’s own design — the shape of a shark. (Photo courtesy of Executive Program Services)

VERTICAL CITY. To build Taipei 101, engineers found innovative ways to build a structure that is strong and sturdy enough not to succumb to typhoon-grade winds and pliable enough not to weaken or break when rattled by an earthquake. (Photo courtesy of Executive Program Services)

LAUNCH PARTY. Firmly securing its place as one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries, Japan joins the ranks of the world’s best in rocketry with the development of its H-IIA rocket. (Photo courtesy of Executive Program Services)

From The Asian Reporter, V17, #18 (May 1, 2007), pages 16 & 17.

Series reveals Asia’s technological accomplishments

By Maileen Hamto

Mastery of technology, combined with access to capital, is a key ingredient in the success of the world’s most industrialized nations. OPB’s series focusing on "Man Made Marvels of Asia" highlights the engineering prowess of Asian countries, ready to take the limelight on the world’s center stage.

From Korea’s success at overcoming challenges to build the world’s most complex high-speed train system, to Japanese ingenuity in building one of the most reliable, fuel-efficient, and precisely engineered space rockets, the series focuses on how Asians excel at adopting the worlds’ best technologies to accomplish feats of engineering never before attained.

Korean Express

May 3, 9:00pm

Completed in 2004, the Korean Express, more popularly known as KTX, cost more than $15 billion, 12 years of development and construction, and the combined efforts of 11 million people. Korea is one of only five countries in the world with a high-speed train system. As one of the fastest trains in the world, KTX tops speeds of 300 km — about 186 miles — per hour.

Home to 10 million people, South Korea is among Asia’s rising economic powers. More than 70 percent of South Koreans make their home along the 412-km corridor (roughly 255 miles) between Seoul and Busan, the third-largest container port in the world. Traffic congestion is a problem along South Korea’s major highways, and it takes more than four hours to travel between the two cities. The need to establish a solid transportation infrastructure was critical to efficient transfer of people and goods along South Korea’s population and industry centers.

Engineers involved in the project excelled at mastering the geographical challenges involved in building bridges, creating tunnels, and laying track for the project. For the high-speed line to run at top speeds, the railway needed to be built along a straight line. To make way for the train, tunnels were blasted through Korea’s mountains. One hundred bridges needed to be built over a six-year period, and a new and faster method of construction was needed. Using the pre-cast span method, engineers were able to cut bridge-building time from one month to three days. The bridges were fabricated in sites erected close to the construction site, which allowed for several sections to be built at once.

Korean engineers worked alongside their French counterparts to design and build the train, which can accommodate 935 passengers. To enable the train to reach maximum speeds, the streamlined shape of the train’s "nose" is adapted from nature’s own design — the shape of a shark.

Lessons learned from the world’s first and worst high-speed train accident, in Germany, also inspired engineers to further evaluate the KTX design for safety. An additional brake system and a potent shock absorber are among innovations that were incorporated into the KTX body design. To help avoid human error, a computerized monitoring system keeps tabs on the operator throughout the journey.

Budget considerations brought about by the 1997 Asian financial crisis caused engineers to make alterations to the original plan. Despite challenges and setbacks, KTX — considered the most complex high-speed train in the world — has successfully united the country and rejuvenated the South Korean economy.

Taipei 101

May 10, 9:00pm

Skyscrapers have been among the most visible and profound symbols of financial prosperity. For decades, cities in the United States boasted the tallest skyscrapers in the world, among them Chicago’s Sears Tower and New York City’s Empire State Building.

In the 1990s the Asian century was heralded by the unveiling of the Petronas Towers, a symbol of Malaysia’s rise as a major financial hub in Southeast Asia. Not to be outdone, the city of Taipei in Taiwan embarked on an ambitious project that sought to build the tallest building in the world in one of the most challenging building sites: the city of Taipei.

At 101 floors and standing 1,671 feet high, Taipei 101 is the ultimate "vertical city," and currently the tallest building the world. Merging traditional Eastern aesthetics with technology, Taipei 101 each week welcomes tens of thousands of employees of some of the world’s biggest companies. Powering the building takes up the equivalent of providing energy to 6,000 homes. Taipei 101 has the fastest elevators in the world, travelling from level 5 to level 89 in 37 seconds.

Sitting atop a major fault line, Taipei’s location on a seismic hotspot makes the city vulnerable to earthquakes. Every year, Taiwan also is visited by violent tropical storms known to level houses and buildings not adequately built to withstand winds of more than 150 miles per hour. Engineers had to find innovative ways to build a structure that is strong and sturdy enough not to succumb to typhoon-grade winds, but pliable enough not to weaken or break when rattled by an earthquake.

By way of steel frame concrete columns to create inner tubes that were later filled with concrete, project managers began the task of building the tallest skyscraper in the world. Each box column was filled with concrete to the 62nd floor. Concrete used in the building is 60 percent stronger than normal.

Halfway through the construction, the project suffered a major setback: an earthquake that registered 6.8 on the Richter scale. Five workers were killed and dozens more injured. It took a few months before building surveyors were able to give the building’s framework a "clean bill of health" and construction continued.

To address the problem of high winds, engineers employed the use of a tuned mass damper, a wind-proofing mechanism that works like a shock absorber in a car. The counterbalance mechanism is not used in any other skyscraper in the world, but has proven to be an effective innovation for Taipei 101.

Japan Space Rocket

May 17, 9:00pm

The pinnacle of any country’s technological prowess is best demonstrated by the efficacy of its space program. Firmly securing its place as one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries, Japan joins the ranks of the world’s best in rocketry with the development of its H-IIA rocket.

While the space race has been dominated by the United States and Russia over the past 50 years, new players have emerged in the high-stakes business of launching commercial satellites. From television programs to international phone calls, and from weather reports to guiding systems, satellites have become increasingly important in data gathering and knowledge sharing. Competition is heating up among various players, and the goal for space programs is to create reliable rockets capable of carrying heavy payloads, at lower launch costs.

Predecessors of the H-IIA rocket were built with much national pride: the Japanese were determined to create space rockets with only Japanese technologies. Acknowledging that much can be learned from the successes and failures of other space programs, Japanese engineers focused on how they could improve on and perfect existing technologies, instead of designing every component from scratch.

Among the hallmark successes of Japanese rocket engineering was creating lighter rockets that are made up of fewer components. Fewer parts that can break or fail is equivalent to lower construction costs, while the reduction in weight represents huge savings in launch costs. Japan’s specific attention to quality led to the design and construction of a safer, more reliable, and cheaper space rocket with 20 percent fewer parts.

The show focuses on the ultimate test for the H-IIA: two launches in 25 days. The success of the missions firmly plants Japan among the key players in the world’s satellite launch market.

To learn more, or to verify show times, call (503) 293-1982 or visit <www.opb.org>.