Longest sea bridge the latest achievement of Chinese engineering

1. The world's longest sea bridge

A section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB), which is due to open in July.

Come July, it will take 40 minutes to drive from mainland China to Hong Kong's international airport and onto the casino hub of Macau.

Driving to the islands? That's right, traffic between Hong Kong, Macau and China will soon flow along the world's longest sea bridge.

The 55 kilometre bridge has taken seven years to build, at a cost of $HK120 billion ($20 billion). Engineers have created four artificial islands to support it.

Each island took just seven months to create, and they were made by piling 120 steel cylinders (each 22 metres by 50 metres)  into the sea bed. One of its designers described the technique as "like planting trees in the sea, so the islands could be firmly rooted".

To duck under the busy flight path of Hong Kong's airport, the "bridge" actually becomes a tunnel for 6.7 kilometres. At its deepest, the tunnel is 46 metres underwater.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is expected to officially open on July 1, the 21st anniversary of Hong Kong being handed back to China after 100 years of British rule.

The bridge has been built to stand for the next 120 years.

Hong Kong and Macau are separated from the mainland by more than water – they are special autonomous regions of China, with separate legal and political systems, and even road rules.

Up to 140 buses will ply the bridge each day, and another 10,000 cars. Around 10,000 cross border licences have been issued to Hong Kong cars, allowing them to use the bridge between Hong Kong and Zhuhai.

Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam sees the bridge as a key part of the formation of a Greater Bay Area, encompassing China's coastal cities in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, as an economic zone.

Sixty five million people live in the Pearl River Delta, which is said to be Asia's most populous urban area.

2. Deep divers

China’s newest unmanned submarine drone, Qianglong 3, after its first deep dive – 3500 metres into the South China Sea. Painted like a clownfish, it is designed to explore for resources on the sea floor.

China's deep sea exploration program continues to push boundaries, with a variety of underwater vehicles.

Deep sea glider Haiyan has just set a new world record, diving 8213 metres into the Mariana Trench, scientists said on Saturday.

A day earlier, China's newest unmanned submarine drone made its first deep dive – 3500 metres into the South China Sea, painted like a clownfish. Qianglong 3 is designed to explore for resources on the sea floor at 4500 metres. It is said to be quieter than its predecessors.

Perhaps its surprise Nemo appearance seeks to allay concerns that China's rapidly advancing deep sea exploration program could also assist the People's Liberation Army monitor foreign navies in the contested South China Sea.

In 2012, China set a record when a three-man crew in the submersible Jiaolong reached a depth of 7062 metres in the Mariana Trench. Tests complete, the Jiaolong will be officially launched this year.

Nature magazine named the head of China's deep sea exploration program, Professor Weicheng Cui, a "science star". He is now building the Rainbow Fish, with the aim of sending a manned submersible to 11,000 metres by 2020, in a $US61 million ($79 million) program. China's deep sea submersibles can already reach 99.8 per cent of the ocean floor.

3. Highest suspension bridge

Towering 564 metres above a river in China's Guizhou province, the Beipanjiang Bridge is the world's highest (but not tallest).

The bridge, using steel cables, is suspended above a steep ravine, at a height equivalent to a 200-storey skyscraper. It took five years to build, at a cost of $US150 million.

The bridge opened in December 2016, to allow a faster highway between Zhejiang and Yunnan provinces.

China claims eight of the world's top 10 tallest bridges.

4. Tall and green

The Shanghai Tower, centre, one of the world’s tallest, greenest buildings.

The Shanghai Tower is 632 metres tall, and ranks as the second tallest in the world. It is also the greenest tall building, achieving a LEED Platinum rating from the US Green Building Council.

Shanghai Tower has 200 wind turbines generating 10 per cent of the building's electricity. It harvests rainwater and recycles grey water, and boasts 24 gardens sitting between two building skins to allow natural cooling and heat retention. These sky gardens have cafes and paths, to reduce the need for building inhabitants to go outside.

It was completed in 2015, after taking six years to build. It has the world's fastest elevators (65km/h) and the tallest viewing platform.

The international Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat awarded the Shanghai Tower "Best tallest building" the following year. Its curved facade and spiralling form has reduced the wind loading on the tower by almost a quarter.

5. Mega airport

It has been described as a flower, or a phoenix. Beijing New Airport is due to open in October 2019, when it will boast the largest airport terminal in the world, at 700,000 square metres.

It will have capacity for 100 million passengers annually, and 4 million tonnes of cargo.

That means 5 kilometres of gates. But the designers have pledged the maximum distance a passenger will need to travel between gates is 600 metres.

Zaha Hadid designed the terminal building, which is double the size of Heathrow's T5 (which was the largest freestanding structure in Britain when it was opened a decade ago). The roof is on, and engineering will be finished by July 2019.

There are 182 airports in China, and the existing Beijing Capital is already the world's second busiest, beset by delays after hitting its design capacity of 75 million passengers in 2013.

As China's air travel boomed, the new airport began construction in December 2014. The project has cost $US13.8 billion. The airport is 67 kilometres from Beijing, so will have a high speed rail link.

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