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A talk between “persevering” Prof. Jiang Xingliang and his inheritor Hu Qin: How they spent years doing research in snow field to safeguard power supply to millions of households

On September 16, Professor Jiang Xingliang, a doctoral supervisor of the School of Electrical Engineering, Chongqing University, had a discussion with Professor Hu Qin from the same School in the lab. Reporter: Lu Yue; Photographer: Chongqing Daily iPaper

This picture taken on December 28, 2018 shows that the Field Icing Test Base of Chongqing University located at the Xuefeng Mountain, Huaihua City, Hunan Province was thickly covered by ice and snow. (Data picture) Freelance photographer: Long Fan/Chongqing Daily iPaper

Profiles of Jiang Xingliang and Hu Qin

Jiang Xingliang, a doctoral supervisor of the School of Electrical Engineering, Chongqing University, born in 1961, became a member of the CPC in 1988. Jiang started working 39 years ago and has served as a teacher for 20 years. He has devoted himself to teaching and research of electrical external insulation, icing and anti-icing and disaster mitigation in extreme environments. He has directed and completed more than 30 basic research projects, including those supported by the National Natural Science Foundation, 973 Program, Qinghai-Tibet Railway and ultra-high-voltage major projects. He also contributed to the establishment of the first field natural icing test station in the world at the Xuefeng Mountain of Hunan. Jiang has won honors including the national first award for advancement in science and technology and national outstanding scientific and technological workers. He has cultivated more than 120 masters and doctors for the power industry of China throughout his career as a teacher.

Hu Qin, a professor of the School of Electrical Engineering, born in 1981, became a member of the CPC in 2004. In 1998, Hu was admitted by Chongqing University as an undergraduate. Later in 2004, he graduated and started to work at Chongqing University. In 2010, he obtained his doctor’s degree. For many years, he has been engaged in the research and teaching of safety of power energy equipment in severe environments, and has participated in a number of major research projects including Qinghai-Tibet Railway and national major basic research programs. Hu was elected as a candidate under the Subsidy Program for Young Backbone Teachers in Colleges and Universities of Chongqing. Hu has also won 1 national second award for advancement in science and technology, 3 provincial first awards and 3 provincial first awards.

“As a scientist, you must be conscientious and meticulous and tolerate no error.” “We, as young scientists, must make even greater strides along the path explored by scientists of the older generation.” On September 16, in a roughly furnished office at CQU National University Science Park, Shapingba, Jiang Xingliang finally finds some time to have an in-depth talk with Professor Hu Qin, who used to be a student in his research group.

“Back then, electrical external insulation, icing and anti-icing and disaster mitigation in extreme environments was a dangerous and rarely concerned research area. So, Mr. Jiang, what made you choose it as your research area?”

“Just because it was rarely concerned doesn’t mean it was not needed. Someone has to do it as long as the country and its people are in need. Time has proved...” Jiang is excited about this question, though Hu already knows the answer.

The teacher and his student, both CPC members, are going to have a long talk about choice of path, adherence to the mission, innovative collaboration and development expectation.

Choice of path

Jiang Xingliang: Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Hu Qin: We are going to continue the research based on the foundation laid by the previous generations in precise response to the need of the country.

In January 2008, the south part of China was severely stricken by rare freezing rain and snow. Many electric transmission lines were damaged by ice and snow, and many areas experienced power grid blackout, causing economic loss of more than 100 billion yuan.

After this natural disaster that caught the local people by surprise, the research of icing prevention and disaster reduction of power grid gained considerate public concern. At that time, researchers found that there was only one monograph that summarized the theoretical research findings in the area of icing and the anti-icing and de-icing technology. This book is named Icing of Electric Transmission Lines and Protection Measures. Jiang Xingliang is the author of the book. By that time, Jiang had been engaged in research of this area for more than 20 years.

In 1985, Jiang started to pursue a master’s degree at Chongqing University, and stepped on his long journey of research of power grid icing insulation. Back then, Chongqing University had already established the first artificial climate chamber that simulated natural icing of power grid in China. Jiang Xingliang became the first postgraduate student to use this artificial climate chamber system to study the power grid icing insulation. After graduation, Jiang went to Wuhan to continue his study as recommended by Gu Leguan, his then supervisor.

Before 2008, many people believed that grid icing was a small probability event and as a result very little study had been done on this topic. “At that time, almost nobody was aware of the seriousness of ice damage. What made you decide to carry out further study?” Hu Qin shows a strong interest in the reason that Mr. Jiang chose this research area.

“At the beginning, it was quite difficult because there were only a few research projects and limited funds.” Jiang said frankly. According to Jiang, the research of grid icing, icing prevention and disaster mitigation was rarely concerned and faced many obstacles. Furthermore, it was one of the most challenging global problems that must be solved by someone. “Nobody wants disasters, but it will be much better for the country if a prevention system is already in place.”

In spring of 2001, after learning Professor Gu Leguan got seriously ill, Jiang Xingliang returned to Chongqing from Wuhan without delay. Lying in the bed, Professor Gu, who had been always engaged in research of high-voltage and insulation technology, expressed his hope that Jiang would return to Chongqing University to continue the development of this discipline.

Jiang Xingliang had already got offers from a number of key universities in mid-east China at that time. After a short time of consideration, Jiang made a decision to do it. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

In 2002, Hu Qin met Jiang Xingliang for the first time at the undergraduate thesis project seminar. After that, Hu Qin obtained his master’s degree and doctor’s degree successively and started to work for Chongqing University after graduation. Though Jiang was not Hu’s immediate supervisor, he has been an important guide of Hu in his professional research. “We are going to continue the research based on the foundation laid by the previous generations in precise response to the need of the country.”

Adherence to the mission

Jiang Xingliang: There is no shortcut to innovation. The firsthand data is all from the ice field in the mountains.

Hu Qin: Doing experiments in strong winds makes me believe scientific research is as pure as crystal.

Jiang Xingliang, who’s in his age of 60, has a seemly weird action---he pokes his left waist with his fingers almost every several minutes.

“I was diagnosed with spinal canal schwannoma because I worked in the field most of the time. I went through surgical treatment and now I am still suffering sequelae. I do this to relieve the pain it causes.” Hu Qin adds that it has become a habit of Jiang. He and his colleagues would advise Jiang to take a rest and carry out study on the campus instead of working in the field.

“There is no shortcut to innovation. In our research, the firsthand data is all from the ice field in the mountains.” Jiang Xingliang believes that the artificial climate chamber on the campus only simulates the natural environment and there is great difference between the data and reality. In order to get precise primary data, Jiang has to work in the field covered by ice and snow for most of the time.

In 2004, following Jiang Xingliang, Hu went to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau scientific experiment. At that time, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was under construction. Due to the high altitude, the external insulation there has different discharging characteristics from that in flat areas. The design of external insulation of power supply works of the railway and the electrical clearance of tunnels ran into the bottleneck.

In order to solve the problems encountered in the construction process of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Jiang Xingliang arrived in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with his team. The team carried out tests at high-altitude railway stations, including Wangkun Station, Fenghuoshan Station, and Golmud Station, which were sparsely populated. In the following 4 years, the team spent 9 months conducting field tests in stages. They did not only complete the research project of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, but also acquired large sets of precious data.

In 2008, after carrying out survey in 17 provinces and cities across China, Jiang decided to take the Xuefeng Mountain in Hunan as the site of the Field (Natural) Icing Test Station. The Xuefeng Mountain has an altitude over 1,500 meters and has various icing modes, including rime, glaze and their mixture.

In order to solve the funds shortfall, Jiang “begged alms” from every possible sources. The team had to do the research design on their own because there were no previous examples to learn from. “The more severe the weather, the more ideal it will be for our research. Under the lead of Mr. Jiang, we worked hard in the austere field, only to achieve our goal.” Hu Qin believes that this experience will be his life-time treasure.

After more than 10 years of hardworking, the first Field (Natural) Icing Test Base of the world was established in the Xuefeng Mountain. By now, the research areas of the Base have extended to external electrical insulation icing, and icing prevention and removal technology for transmission line and wind farm. This Base has completed a number of national, provincial and ministerial scientific research projects.

Development expectations

Jiang Xingliang: We have to keep expanding our team and make further breakthroughs through teamwork.

Hu Qin: I will buckle down and play a leading role in the research.

Jiang Xinliang is 20 years older than Hu Qin. Now both of them are doctoral supervisors. In 2020, Jiang Xingliang was granted the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. This year, he was selected as a candidate of the National Model of Education of 2021. Hu Qin was also selected as a candidate under the Subsidy Program for Young Backbone Teachers in Colleges and Universities of Chongqing, and has won a number of national, provincial and ministerial awards.

Speaking of the future development of the discipline, Jiang says to Hu Qin: “Efforts should be made to expand the current research areas. We have seen breakthroughs in the intelligent de-icing of power grid. However, we have to adapt to the new needs and make progress in railway, airplane, and wind power generation equipment. To this end, we have to expand our team, and make further breakthroughs through teamwork.”

In response to Jiang’s encouraging words, Hu says in a serious tone: “I will buckle down and play a leading role in the research as you told me to.”

For Hu Qin, Jiang Xingliang is a persevering scientist, who tries to detract himself from the physical pain by doing tests. “He often tells us stories of how our predecessors, like Yan Huailiang, Sun Caixin and Gu Leguan, overcame challenges and how they worked together to found the high-voltage lab. This indomitable spirit must be carried on generation by generation, and we’ll never discard it.”

There were also warm moments in the field, when they sat around the table to enjoy the dishes prepared by Jiang. “Most of the time we had to do with very simple meals, which were prepared by Mr. Jiang. When we were on the campus, the happiest time was when we had fish hot pot in the midnight.” When they ate at the table, they found peace among the nerve-wracking debating, the delight of acquiring date and the harshness of the environment. Now, Hu Qin became the new cook of the team.

“Life is but a span. Every time I look back upon the times I worked with the team, I feel fulfilled and happy. It’s worth it.” says Jiang.

Original aspiration>>>

Jiang Xingliang

A paper of life written on the ice field of China

The party membership application of Jiang Xingliang, which he submitted during his postgraduate study in 1988, is now archived at the School of Electrical Engineering of Chongqing University.

The application has 3 fully covered pages. One of the paragraphs reads: “For an intellectual, ideal is nothing if he is unwilling to work hard and devote himself to scientific undertakings. In my opinion, in order to revitalize the science and technology of the Chinese nation, every scientific worker has to do his part. In particular, advanced, aspiring intellectuals who are party members must set an example for others.”

In 1985, Jiang Xingliang was admitted by Chongqing University and was transferred to the Department of High-voltage Engineering Technology. Under the guide of his teacher Professor Gu Leguan, Jiang took up research of insulator icing, and plunged into his long journey of ice, snow and high voltage.

Back then, there were only limited resources and no professional lab on the campus. Led by Academician Sun Caixin, teachers and students took back the abandoned high-voltage and voltage regulating equipment from the power companies. They then repaired the equipment and built up a lab using the equipment. Jiang Xingliang still remembers those days when he and Mr. Sun carried the equipment using a handcart in the scorching sun. This lab built on equipment “moved to the campus using handcart” has now become a national key lab.

The main research area of Jiang Xingliang is electrical external insulation, icing and anti-icing and disaster mitigation in extreme environments. He spends nearly one third of his time working in snow-covered field prevailed by extreme weathers like low temperature, high humidity and oxygen deficit.

When Qinghai-Tibet Railway was under construction, Jiang Xingliang called up his team to transport the test equipment with weight of tens of thousands kg from the lab of Chongqing University. They moved along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway from an altitude of 2,800 meters to an altitude of 5,050 meters, and carried out field test and research at stations including Golmud, Naij Tal, Yuzhufeng, Wang Kun and Fenghuoshan.

When they conducted the test at Fenghuoshan with an altitude of 5,050 meters, they suffered anoxia. “We were able to tolerate the oxygen deficiency in the day. But at night we were unable to fall asleep. I felt as if someone was chocking me when I laid down. The test lasted for about 10 days, and during that time I had to sleep sitting up in bed.” Jiang Xingliang adds that days later he and his team were too exhausted to continue the test and they drove to a town at a lower altitude at the source of the three rivers more than 200km away to have a good sleep.

The team of Jiang Xingliang is mostly made up of party members. They always take the lead in scientific research and do their best to serve the people. They experienced sickness in the extreme weather during the test but had no complaint.

Jiang Xingliang: “The design of Qinghai-Tibet Railway needs data of an altitude above 5,000 meters. There were no such data in the world. We had to obtain the data on our own.” They did it.

Thanks to their research findings, the headway of the Fenghuoshan Tunnel of Qinghai-Tibet Railway was reduced from the original 7.2 meters to 6.95 meters. This reduction in headway saved about 140 million yuan of investment in civil construction. Besides, they obtained the first sets of data on external insulation discharge at high altitudes in the world.

“The research would have not succeeded but for the field test we conducted, though we could carry out simulation using a computer.” The long time Jiang spent working hard in the field gave him a better understanding of what a scientist spirit is. Being a scientist means you have to keep the country in mind, and do the best to serve the people. In the years of struggling, hardworking and persevering, Jiang has bound up his own future and destiny with that of the nation and the country, and has written a paper of life on the ice field of the country.

“We carry out research in the ice field to guarantee uninterrupted power supply to millions of households.” Jiang has never forgotten his mission.


Hu Qin:

An inheritor of the persisting and hardworking spirit of the older generation

For the 40-year-old Hu Qin, the 60-year-old Jiang Xingliang is like an ox. “He is like a serving-the-people ox, the pioneering ox and the persisting ox.” Hu Qin says that the serving-the-people spirit, persisting and hardworking spirit, and the pioneering spirit within Professor Jiang have been inherited from those scientists of the older generation. By practicing those spirits, Jiang set an example for the younger generation. “We must do our best to carry on the spirits of the scientists of the older generation.”

Hu Qin graduated in 2004, after which he started to work at Chongqing University, and became a colleague of Jiang Xingliang. For Hu, Jiang is a teacher and friend. During the construction of West-to-East Power Transmission Project, the electrical external insulation works of Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and the ice prevention and disaster reduction of power grids in various regions, Hu followed Jiang wherever he went.

Now, Hu Qin has become an inheritor of Jiang Xingliang. Every year, Hu would take a number of students to the Xuefeng Mountain to carry out test.

It is not an easy task to carry out research of ice prevention and disaster reduction of electric transmission lines and external insulation discharge in complicated environment. This is because such research has to be carried out in extreme weathers and in places covered by snow and ice. “There are a lot challenges. But we have to keep on moving.”

The most memorable field test is one they conducted at a station of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. One of the team members suffered high altitude sickness when they were doing tests at Wangkun Station. The sickness was serious. The Station was located in an uninhabited area and was nearly 200km away from Golmud, the nearest town. Hu Qin went to the nearby army service station, only to be told they only had medicines for cold. Under the emergency, Hu Qin tried to stop cars by the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, but no car stopped. Later, Hu called the colleagues stationed in Golmud and the colleagues then drove over. “That was a quite a long night. Fortunately we arrived at the hospital before things got worse.”

Last year, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Hu Qin and some other researchers were trapped in the Xuefeng Mountain for more than 1 month. They had to do with frozen food that was intended for use in winter. Sometimes they dug radishes in the snow field and caught fish in the pond, while continuing with the pollution and rainfall tests. No one complained. When they finally left the Xuefeng Mountain, it was like decades had passed.

Now, the Xuefengshan Base has become a popular destination among experts and researchers from home and abroad. As a backbone researcher, Hu Qin has acquired tons of precious data and made innovative research achievements in the more than 10 years of research and test, which are providing technical support for establishment of related standards and safe operation of power energy equipment in severe environment.

Having spent years carrying out tests in extreme weathers and severe environment, Hu, like many other colleagues, is suffering rheumatic disease. “We have much better conditions compared with scientists of the older generation.” Hu Qin says that as long as his physical conditions permit, he would continue with the research and test however difficult it is. “A long journey can be covered only by taking one step at a time.”