Antarctica has always been a fascinating destination for explorers and researchers around the world since its discovery in the early 19th century. As early as the 1980s, Chinese researchers began their expeditions to uncover the secrets of this mysterious continent. On February 20, 1985, the first Chinese station named "Great Wall" was completed and which has since been followed by Zhongshan, Kunlun, Taishan stations and more recently the station which is under construction "Victoria" on “Inexpressible Island”, a rocky island located in Terra Nova Bay.
The Victoria station covers an area of 5,500m² and has a capacity to accommodate 80 scientists during the summer and 30 during the winter with a range of scientific research from 300 to 500 kilometers.
In October 2016, the realization of the Victoria station was entrusted to the consortium of the Polar Research Center of China and China Railway Construction Engineering Group (CRCEG). The lack of fresh water supply constituted a real obstacle, thus affecting the construction schedule and the quality of life of the personnel on the site.
In June 2017, the QT group’s research and development center was asked by project managers to jointly develop a new seawater desalination system to meet the drinking water needs.
In partnership with the Institute for Desalination of Sea Water and Multipurpose Use in Tianjin (National Institute under the supervision of the Ministry of Natural Resources), the choice was oriented towards the iDesalt Robust series already developed by the QT group with a production capacity between 6 to 26 m3 of fresh water per day and a high resistance to extreme weather conditions.
The team designated by the QT group was to complete the design, processing, commissioning and training of operators of the desalination plant before mid-October 2017 and ship it on board a polar scientific research vessel.
The ambient temperature in the Antarctic zone is always below 0℃, which makes the commissioning and maintenance of the desalination container a very complicated task. As for the sea water temperature, it varies between -1 and -2℃. The seawater intake is thus taken under the ice layer which can easily cause the the freezing and the cracking of drainage pipeline. In such extremely difficult conditions, performance should be reliable and guarantee that no failure would occur during operation.
To ensure stable and optimal performance, the design team used a variety of technical measures such as water tracing to prevent freezing of the pipeline, a double assurance process with a combination of submersible pump and self-priming pump, as well as the addition of an electromagnetic heater to heat the concentrated water by secondary reverse osmosis to increase the temperature of the raw seawater and more special designed measures.
Finally, to save time, the members of the expedition went to QT production site in Suzhou to receive intensive training on the operating principle and maintenance techniques of the iDesalt Robust system.
Thanks to the efforts of the project team, the desalination container was completed on schedule, that is, on October 16, 2017, and was approved by the owner who expressed great satisfaction with the final result. The QT group has also committed a technical team to provide technical assistance through a remote monitoring system installed on the device.
On November 8, 2017, the 34th Chinese expedition team from Shanghai set off for Antarctica aboard the "Snow Dragon" to start construction work on the "Victoria" station with their durable drinking water source on board: the "iDesalt Robust". According to the construction plan schedule, the "Victoria" station should be operational in 2022.