The wait is finally near the end as the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in early 2022 are on the horizon.
Ice and snow are the heart and soul of both games. But how could game-approved ice and snow be made? Through innovation is the answer of a selection of Chinese companies, universities and research institutes, who bring patents and other IPRs to take this Olympic-caliber challenge head on.
Green Ice Surface
Beijing's Capital Indoor Stadium recently successfully hosted two international testing events for the Games. Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy and International Skating Union Short Track Speed Skating World Cup. The all-new CO2 surface spread on the ice rink of the Stadium is ideal for athletes to perform on. The company behind it is AST Cooling and Solar Energy (Beijing). AST's CO2 cross-threshold direct-refrigeration machine set employs its eponymous essential technology which slashes the energy consumption cost by 50% and contains the temperature difference of refrigeration within 0.3℃, in comparison with traditional ethylene glycol indirect refrigeration. "We have filed multiple patent applications covering 'CO2 cross-threshold direct-refrigeration machine set' and 'one-stop CO2 cross-threshold direct-refrigeration system', which can immediately drop 30% of investment cost and refrigeration-induced human cost, and meet the stringent requirements over ice of over six ice events including figure skating, short track and regular track skating, " AST Vice General Manager Wang Bo said.
AST's breakthroughs are not confined in ice temperatures, softness/hardness, but also in environment protection and energy preservation. By using cold-hot comprehensive use technology, heat recovery system, AST recovers the heat generated from refrigeration and injects into stadium dehumidification, water-heating, defrosting systems, which may help slim down energy bill by over 50% annually.
Reliable Snow Making
Snow-related logistics is one of the prime tasks for any winter games organizer. Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences leads the program that ensures quality snow is there when needed. Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences (CAMS) is assigned a sub-program on making ice-shaped-snow track under various climate conditions.
"The first step for making a game-approved ice-shaped-snow track is to quantify the key parameters of that snow track and snow quality, "said Ding Minghu, Vice Director General of CAMS's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Polar Region Meteorological Sciences Institute. His team manufactured numerous ice-shaped-snow tracks for experiment and collected relevant real-time meteorological data. In the process and with outside help, they invented an ice/snow particle measuring equipment and an ice/snow hardness measuring equipment and filed according patent applications. Their technology can basically measure tracks without tampering them.
The Beijing 2022 will be held in February and March. Low temperatures, sandstorms, rainfalls may all have impact on snow quality. It is crucial to store enough game-approved snow in preparation for the risk accompanying possible extreme weather. "We have constructed a physical energy balance mode, test snow storage at multiple skiing locations, Shijinglong in Chongli, Beijing, Wanlong in Chongli, Hebei and Altay Ski in Altay, Xinjiang. We own several patents including one titled "an experiment device studying stored snow's size and shape's impact on snow storage' and devise bespoke snow-storage plans for each game location," said Wang Feiteng, Deputy Director of the North Institute's National Key Lab on Cryosphere.
The grounds catering snow events such as Alpine skiing, cross country skiing need the treatment of compactors and other heavy-duty machines to be game-ready. Hebei Xuangong company under Hebei Steel Group, a leader in tracked machines, invented a high-powered compactor for the Games, in collaboration with Beijing University of Science and Technology, Jiangsu University, PLA's Armor Command Engineering School, Beijing Rubber Industry Research Institute.
"We have developed an electro-hydraulic control system and test reliability, compatibility, serviceability on compactors. By using special aluminum, polymer plastics and other new materials, we found breakthroughs in low-temperature tolerance and lightweight and eventually gave birth to this blue-chip product, SG400 compactor," SG400's designer Wen Xiaoxuan said. Patents on 'lightweight and durable compactor tracks' , 'adjustable snow tightness control device for compactors' and other technology were also sought. As of now, SG400 has accomplished field tests in Wanlong, Taiwu, Galaxy and other ski resorts in Chongli and been approved for operation by competent authorities.
Making ice and snow is the foundation for hosting the winter games, and a leverage for the ice/snow businesses to fly. The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics sets up a stage for winter sports and businesses to prosper. It is also a golden opportunity for us to upgrade relevant technology and industry through innovation.