Water is our most vital resource. Yet one we waste in huge amounts via inefficiencies, deficiencies and aging problems within the hidden and inaccessible maze of pipelines buried beneath towns and cities (nearly 8,000 kilometers in Hong Kong and 1.5 million kilometers in the US). Estimates put such worldwide losses at 30%-40%, enough to serve 160 cities the size of Hong Kong, notes civil engineer and fluid mechanics global expert Prof. Mohamed Ghidaoui.
He is now trying to tackle this complex global challenge. In over 20 years of research at HKUST, Prof. Ghidaoui has made fundamental contributions to understanding wave propagation in fluid lines, as well as flow stability of time-dependent water flows and turbulent shallow shear flows in rivers and oceans. Building on his expertise and academic renown, he is leading a top international interdisciplinary research team of civil and environmental, electronic and computer, and mechanical engineers and mathematicians in a mega-exciting project that is seeking to deliver a world-first diagnostic technology in Hong Kong to remedy the situation and already creating a buzz within the field worldwide.
The team is drawing together fluid mechanics with signal processing to help identify problem sections of pipeline and relay high-resolution images back to civil engineers to enable analysis and mitigation measures. Indeed, the technology should be useful for any fluid-carrying conduit.
As a perpetual pioneer, Prof. Ghidaoui is eminently suited to head such an endeavor. Originally hailing from a farming background in Tunisia, he won an overseas scholarship and received his bachelor, master’s and PhD all in civil engineering from the University of Toronto, Canada. Joining HKUST in 1993 as one of the first 10 faculty hired in his department, he enthusiastically helped build the fledgling University into today’s elite institution. He is a recipient of the Arthur Thomas Ippen award, in recognition of his contributions to the field and the most prestigious prize presented by the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR). In 2016, he became the first non-European- or US-based editor of the IAHR’s flagship Journal of Hydraulic Research.
Prof. Ghidaoui is also highly appreciative of the opportunities he has gained through education and all the teachers who inspired him. In return, he has given back to his own students through his delight in explaining things, his dynamic passion for his subject, and his realized goal to assist others to become award-winning researchers, educators and contributors to the engineering field. “I want students to see it’s the excitement and drive to make the world better for people that inspire engineers. Research in engineering is about the creation and application of knowledge to solve important societal problems while having much fun along the way!”