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Acid Rain in China: Industrial Problem

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Acid rain is the environmental issue that can occurs negative impact towards human, animals, surrounding or even non-living things like property. The clean rain has a pH value between 5.0 and 5.5. Nevertheless, the pH of rain can become more acidic up to 4.0 if the rain combines with sulfur dioxides or nitrogen dioxides which those are from the industrial area. Some parties in industry are not taking serious on how they manage their company, thus the air and water pollution happened. Those pollutions in industrial area might be affecting the other area and the possibility the acid rain happened is high. Aftermath of acid rain, the surrounding will damage including buildings, plants and also human health. To overcome this issue, there are two solutions in engineering perspective which is by developing monitoring and sensing tools of the dangerous gases. This approach able to enhance air that strong acidic pollutants tracking systems. Next, semiconducting metal oxide based sensors for selective gas pollutant detection. In these both solutions, the sensors and internet of things (IoT) is what will be taking into account.

Acid Rain in China

Republic of China is a developed country which 40.5% of their gross domestic product are from industrial activities like manufacturing and construction in 2017. The industry of China is including iron, steel, aluminum, chemical, electronics and other. Thus, it makes China has made average PM2.5 which is harmful for people health because PM2.5 are small particles in the air that cause the air appear hazy and reduce visibility when levels are high. In 1970s, acid rain happened in China.

The acid rain causes respiratory diseases worst due to Strong acidic gases such as CO2, SO2, and NO2. The respiratory disease like asthma or chronic bronchitis that make people hard to breath. Not only affecting people, China’s river also had the same experience which is Yangtze River where the acid rain mainly spread there. The most parts of Jiangxi Province, Fujian Province, Hunan Province, and Chongqing Municipality, as well as Yangtze River delta, Pearl River delta, and southeast Sichuan Province are the acid decomposition area. The total area that experience the unhealthy acid rain was around 10.6% of the national territory.

Fossil fuel combustion formed acid deposition and emitted freely to the atmosphere. The factor of forming that acid deposition is caused by coal and oil fired power plants and transportation such as road vehicle or ships. In late 1970s, China suffered acid rain and acidification of the environment. The biggest factor of acid rain in China is the extensive use of coal, thus sulfur dioxide released rapidly since 1970s. In few years after, the emission of SO2 is decreasing and the rate is faster than before. That situation is not healthy because SO2 is acidic. Oil is also a biggest source of sulfur in surrounding. The national average content of sulfur in the coal is 1.1%, but in some heavily industrial areas in the southwest China, the sulfur content can be as high as 4%. In fact, the total emission of sulfur in China’s atmosphere were -22 million metric tons’ in 2003. That were even higher than European emission. The number of transportation has increase dramatically from 6.2 million in 1990 to 36.0 million in 2003 and caused the emission of NOx estimated at 12 million t, which is more than half of total US emissions and European.

Engineering Sollution

As stated before, the strong acidic gases are CO2, SO2, and NO2 that causes pollutants and threatening human health and surrounding. Therefore, to overcome this problem, new tools develops to monitor and sense those gases quickly. In sensing the acidic air pollutants using single channel, it is difficult to detect the gas because they have similar chemistry in acidic molecules. Thus, the rational design of aminopolymer for selective different of acidic air pollutants is introduced. Traditionally, infrared (IR) sensor and solid-state sensor have been use to track and monitor air pollutant. Mobile interaction between analytes-column and number of IR absorption peaks of the analytes, gas chromatography and IR sensor can selectively detect strong acidic pollutants based on different strengths. That detection tools are quite expensive, huge and complex, thus it would be difficult for the future generation to extend this pollutant detecting gas pollutant systems technology.

The solid-state gas sensor technologies are based on electronics and Internet of Things (IoT) which it is a user-oriented ambient pollution tracker. It is also low-power consumption, miniaturization, device compatibility, multi-channel operation and integrated circuit (IC). Since the acidic air pollutants are similar chemical properties and very hard to differentiate the gas molecules, it is also difficult to use single channel material or single chip fabrication process. The solid-state gas is sensing the signal based on the variations of electrical properties with using multi-channel material.

Moreover, the developing of semiconductor metal oxide based sensors for selective gas pollutant detection is also donated in improving this detecting gas pollutant system technologies. The semiconducting metal oxide (SMO) is a sensor that widely used in chemiresistive gas sensor which it undergoes reduction and oxidation to react the same class of gases. The operation of gases by SMO sensor is by exchanging electrons with target gas at certain characteristic rate and affecting the sensor’s resistance and yielding a certain signal. SMO is applying the sensor as catalysts and electric conductive detectors toward multiple gases. There is some advantage on using SMO which is low cost, small size, measurement simplicity, durability, ease of fabrication and low detection limits or ppm level. It also tends to long-lived and resistant to poisoning and nowadays, it is widely use as gas sensor detection.

Various parameters that affect the function of the solid state gas sensor, such adsorption ability, electro physical and chemical properties, catalytic activity, thermodynamic stability and the adsorption/desorption properties of the surface. But, for the SMO device only involve two major key functions such receptor and transducer functions. For SMO, the free electrons easily flow after high temperature is applied to the sensor and then through grain boundaries of the SMO films. While in the atmosphere, on the SMO surface is where the oxygen absorbed and forming a potential barrier at the grain boundaries. After that, SMO surface forms charged oxygen and trapped electrons form the bulk material where the layer of charged electrons repels other electron from interacting the bulk film. The depleted region of electron created and increased potential barrier at the grain boundaries.

SMO have applied in detecting air pollutants for example sulfur dioxide gas. SMO detects sulfur dioxide and reduces in the environment. Same goes with H2S gas which this gas is very dangerous to human health, which if the concentration of this gas is above 250 ppm, the possibility for humans to get negative effect to their body and possibility to cause death. SMO has modified to selective detect H2S gas.

Both semiconductor metal oxide sensor and solid-state gas sensor are a good choice to apply in detecting the pollutant gas to improve the environment before it is become worst.

Even though, China’s acid emission is higher than expected, their ammonia emission is still three times larger than NOx due to agricultural activities. In recent years, China’s local air has improved due to restrictions on the use of coal-fired household stoves in urban area to the country sides. The installation of scrubbers on coal-fired boilers also reduced air pollution in China.

Due to acid rain, China had taken necessary step on environmental monitoring. General focus in national monitoring environment program Is focus on urban air quality and precipitation pH. Chinese and Norwegian are cooperating in this environmental monitoring project which is called Integrated Monitoring Program on Acidification of Chinese Terrestrial Systems. Five forest state in China was involved in this program which focusing in air pollution, perception composition, water and soil.

China’s government recognized the problem and take necessary action. China has developed the concept of an acid-rain control zone as priority in acid-rain reduction policy. Next, a campaign called West to East Electricity Transfer Project for Ginzhou is one of the government action on increasing electricity production. That is because Ginzhou is one of the poorest in China and many new coal-fired power plant built there as their source of electricity. However, the emission of coal-fired plant is not healthy.


Acid rain in China is caused by the largest usage of coal in their industrial area or domestic area. Increasing in coal combustion and increasing the number of vehicle are resulting the emissions of NOx. NOx and SO2 formed acid deposition and emitted to the atmosphere which is it is very dangerous to the human and may cause air pollution, hazy surrounding and acid rain. Fossil fuel also causing unhealthy China’s atmosphere from its acid decomposition.

There are two engineering solutions that focusing on detecting gas pollutants are stated which is developing semiconductor metal oxide sensor and solid-state gas sensor. Although the traditional technology detecting gas pollution is available which it is using infrared (IR) sensor, but SMO and solid-state gas sensor is better. IR sensor technology for gas detection is expensive, huge and complex, thus it would be difficult for the future generation to extend this pollutant detecting gas pollutant systems technology. Unlike SMO is very low cost, small size, measurement simplicity, durability, ease of fabrication and low detection limits or ppm level. Personally, SMO is a great solution to apply in conjunction to improve China environmental issue especially air pollution that will causes acid rain.

The non-engineering solution had applied by China to improve this issue. China undergo environmental monitoring which China monitor some places to monitor its air quality and pH. For example, China-Norwegian Integrated Monitoring Program on Acidification of Chinese Terrestrial System. China also doing agricultural activities without failed that affecting the local air improved. Furthermore, restrictions on the use of coal-fired household stoves in urban area to the country sides also improved the air quality. Thus, engineering and non-engineering solution need to be worked together in all environmental issue so that it is under control.


  • Thorjørn Larssen, Sv ein Solberg, Yi He, Jixi Gao, Haiying Liu, … Jiahai Luo (2006) Acid Rain in China. Environmental Science & Technology, American Chemical Society. 418 – 425.
  • Zhao Dianwu, Xiong Jiling, Xu Yu, Walter H. Chan, (1988). ACID RAIN IN SOUTHWESTERN CHINA. Atmospheric Environment (1967), 349 – 358. doi: 10.1016/0004-6981(88)90040-6
  • Cho, S.-Y., Cho, K. M., Chong, S., Park, K., Kim, S., Kang, H., … Jung, H.-T. (2018). Rational Design of Aminopolymer for Selective Discrimination of Acidic Air Pollutants. ACS Sensors, 3(7), 1329–1337. doi: 10.1021/acssensors.8b00247
  • Sofian Kanan, Oussama El-Kadri, Imad Abu-Yousef, Marsha Kanan (2009) Semiconducting Metal Oxide Based Sensors for Selective Gas Pollutant Detection. Sensors. 8158 – 8196. doi: 10.3390/s91008158

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