Intellectual Adventure Series

Collaboration of Yokohama National University (YNU) and University of Da Nang

Yokohama National University and the University of Da Nang, a national university located in Da Nang: a city of central Vietnam, are signed in a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement and have strong relationships with their faculties and students with one another. Here, we will introduce how these two universities––one from Vietnam, right at the height of economic growth and expanding its infrastructure at an urgent pace; and the other from Japan, a country that puts priority on seeking maintenance measures for the aging buildings and roads after having already closed the chapter of rapid economic growth––are collaborating while utilizing their respective strengths.

The South China Sea and beautiful beach of Da Nang

The moment we arrive in Da Nang, a city in central Vietnam, greeted us with a wash of stifling hot air. Immediately drenched in sweat, it was an affirming moment that we had arrived in the tropics.

Da Nang is one of the main tourist resort areas in South East Asia and is known for its beautiful beaches and exotic seafood; it comes as no surprise that those who visit the city tend to come back frequently. Direct flights from Japan carry many families frequently to the beaches during summer vacations. Those who haven’t visited for a few years will notice the international terminal revamped as Da Nang International Airport reopened in 2017 after renovation. Not only the airport but the city itself continues to change its scenery as skyscrapers increase in the busy streets, indicating the city is right in the middle of rapid economic growth.

Open to the sea, Da Nang is an ideal port city at the middle point of the vertically long country. It is also the starting point of the East-West Economic Corridor: a highway that cuts across the Indochina Peninsula, making it a key transportation hub blessed by favorable terrain. Therefore, Da Nang is among leading metropolises such as Hanoi (in the north) and Ho Chi Min (in the south). This growing city holds nothing back on expanding its infrastructure as can be seen in the appearance of five bridges constructed over the Han River in only about a dozen years from the year 2000.

Also, not only does Da Nang have two faces––tourism and economics––but it has a third face of being a marble locality. In stores geared for tourists at a sightseeing area within the city called Marble Mountain, you can purchase various marble souvenirs.

A large sculpture made from that very same marble from Da Nang graces the campus of Yokohama National University. The stone monument with the reddish tint stands within a small planting enclosure in the middle of the stone pavement lined with overhanging trees that leads to the main entrance of the university, right where the campus Main Street intersects with the bus route that runs through in front of the University Hall. The monument front is engraved with “YNU YOKOHAMA National University”.

Monument made with marble from Da Nang

Close to a cafeteria on a busy street, the placement of the marble carving is quite conspicuous enough, but most pedestrians walk on by without giving it a second glance. It seems this site does not attract much attention aside from the times there are commemorative photoshoots for enrollment or graduation ceremonies, and very few even know this block of marble as being the monument witnessing the exchanges between Yokohama National University and the University of Da Nang.

The history of this monument dates back to 2011 when Vice President Yamada of Yokohama National University (at the time) and President Tran Van Nam of the University of Da Nang (at the time) made each other’s acquaintance. During their first meeting, they discussed the possibility of cross-campus cooperation. Both universities considered their respective purposes and effects, and the Comprehensive Partnership Agreement was signed in conclusion. Thus, this marble monument was brought in from Da Nang, and placed in commemoration of this event.

The cooperation started in this fashion has made steady progresses. The University of Da Nang established the Center for Risk Management and Safety Sciences in 2011, and the International Branch of Yokohama National University in 2014. These organizations has facilitated a number of joint research programs with the faculties and students in both universities. Even in 2018, both universities maintained active relationship. Now, let me introduce two examples among thema. Two young researchers visited Yokohama National University, respectively in 2018. Both were lecturers, Dr. Thao and Dr. Hoang, of the University of Da Nang. Let me tell you beforehand that this article takes its main source from interviews conducted with lecturers, Dr. Thao and Dr. Hoang of Da Nang University, and composed from my (Nakagawa’s) perspective with additional researched information.

Now, let us begin with the introduction of the joint research with Lecturer Thao. Like I mentioned before, there are five bridges constructed over the Han River. The Thuan Phuoc Bridge, situated farthest downstream out of them all, is Vietnam’s longest suspension bridge that opened in 2009. It is of significant importance to Da Nang’s economy, which serves as a major transport hub. However, the bridge inconveniently closed off the crossing of large vehicles in 2011 due to strong vibrations. As the University of Da Nang was appointed with the task of unraveling the root cause and planning measures for it, we decided to join forces in collaborative research as per the signed Agreement.

Lecturer Thao (second from the left) at Yokohama National University. From the left, Associate Professor Kasai, Lecturer Thao, Visiting Professor Kuriyama, and Mr. Duc.

As the researchers from both universities observed and examined the bridge as a team, they discovered damage to the road surface from what they thought had been brought on by intense traffic. They hypothesized the damaged surface as being the root cause, so they attached accelerometers to the bridge for measuring the vibrations. Analyzing with the data and the simulations confirmed their hypotheses. The cause of the vibrations was elucidated that the damaged road surface was due to unexpectedly high traffic. The project ended by formulating and presenting appropriate maintenance plans based on their research conclusions.

The urgent problem was solved for now. But, truly, Thao’s research had just stood at the very starting point. He was not satisfied at suspension bridges, but deployed research interests to more complicated bridge of various structures ,such as cable-stayed bridges and suspension bridges with multiple towers. Finally, with the continuous advices of Visiting Professor Kuriyama (Professor of the Research into Artifacts, Center for Engineering, Tokyo University at that time, and currently the Visiting Professor of the Center for Creation of Symbiosis Society with Risk), Thao successfully received a Doctor degree from the University of Da Nang. Visiting Professor Kuriyama is currently undertaking research relating to the management and maintenance of the social infrastructure. Professor Kuriyama lead Thao’s joint research along with Associate Professor Kasai as a professor at the Center for Risk Management and Safety Sciences in YNU at the time of the commencement of the joint research, and after moving to Tokyo University in 2013 as a professor of the Research into Artifacts, Center for Engineering.

Encouraged by the success of this joint research, both sides agreed on expanding the partnership and searched for new research themes. For the next project, it seemed desirable to focus on the differences between Japan and Vietnam’s climate/ environment and society/economy while at the same time solving common problems for both sides. Furthermore, they considered how they could apply their knowledge gained through the vibration research of the Thuan Phuoc Bridge keeping the focus on the social infrastructure risks. The new theme that came to the fore was: Analyzing the corrosive environment of bridges suffering chloride damage. The purpose of Lecturer Thao’s visit is precisely that of discussing specifics on how to proceed with future projects.

The corrosion of infrastructure due to salty spray flied from the sea is a common headache for both countries, which had long coastlines. The University of Tokyo and Yokohama National University have integrated physical and chemical knowledge of the sprayed salt from the coastline, particularly after passing of typhoons in Japan. As a fact, the trains in the metropolitan area were delayed because of post-typhoon chloride damage not so long ago. The tropical monsoon climate of Vietnam is higher in temperature and humidity, and because of greater numbers of typhoons, corrosions from high levels of salinity is serious. If we can discover new methods of measuring salt sprays and define its mechanisms, both Japan and Vietnam will gain beneficial information on protecting social infrastructure from salt damage. This visit and conference went underway with expectations for such results. What were the specifics of their discussions? I’ll be tuning in with much interest in future developments.

While the aim for Lecturer Thao’s visit is mainly exploiting of the past accomplishments, Lecturer Hoang’s purpose of the visit is to extend the wings of cooperation to a new area: chemical engineering. During Hoang’s stay last December, Vietnam’s second petroleum refinery and petrochemical plant started operations. The Nghi Son Refinery in Northern Vietnam is a joint venture project developed by companies from Vietnam, Japan, and Kuwait. Although having offshore oil fields in the south, Vietnam only has one refinery in Dung Quat of Central Vietnam up until now. One refinery has not enough capacity to satisfy rapidly growing demands of petrochemical products. The consumption of energy and petrochemical products will be rising, and the increase in export will b ea driving force of the economic growth.

Lecturer Hoang (left) welcomed at Yokohama National University. To the right is Professor Atsumi Miyake, Vice-Director of IAS.

Lecturer Hoang says, “Currently, we are only producing simple products, such as petroleum and polyethylene, that are relatively low in added value. From now on, we are to launch out to producing and exporting high added-value products by improving production capabilities.” However, to realize this plan, we learn engineering technology to mass-produce petroleum products through a more complicated process as well as the skills to manage dangerous materials.

Hoang continues, “Vietnam needs engineers who are well-versed in the safety engineering of petroleum refinery and petrochemical plants, but Da Nang University of Technology doesn’t have the faculty for teaching safety engineering. We have high hopes for the cooperation with Yokohama National University. Specifically, we are hoping to send graduate students to YNU, where they study petrochemical and safety engineering.” With large-scale refineries increasing to two in Vietnam, the training of engineers is an imperative issue. What kind of partnership will be born? And what collaborations can we consider as being fruitful for both universities? These are also things that fill me with optimism.

Both universities are incubating joint research ideas for expanding cooperation other than the ones mentioned above. I look forward to seeing these ideas hatch and develop into meaningful collaborations in the future.

Vietnam and Japan are vastly different in climate and terrain, history and culture. Our ways of thinking are different as well. However, if diverse entities can come together to create something new––precisely the creation of innovation––is it not an exciting thing? If we can create innovation from such cooperation of our universities, it is truly a matter of joy.

Now, the third and middle bridge out of the five over the Han River is the Dragon Bridge. True to its name, the bridge is constructed in the shape of a yellow dragon and displays jets of water and fire from its mouth on weekend nights, making it a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.

The Yellow Dragon of Dragon Bridge

Yellow, the dragon’s color of the bridge, signifies the center of creation according to the Yin-Yang theory of the five elements. The yellow dragon, called “Huanglong,” sits at the center of the universe and is the most divine beast ruling over the four gods of the four corners of the world. Is not the golden, fire-breathing dragon the very lust for economic thriving as felt by the people of Da Nang? The image of the powerful dragon charging with the undulating movement of its body signifies Da Nang’s confidence for growth. Crossing this bridge in a car, it seems as if one is running alongside the huge dragon, and it’s as if you can feel the power of the dragon welling up inside of you. I felt as if the yellow dragon was symbolizing the future of the partnership between Yokohama National University and The University of Da Nang.

The Yellow Dragon of the Dragon Bridge illuminated and breathing fire on a weekend night.

(Masahiro Nakagawa, IAS Strategic Plannning Manager)