Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sir James Dyson award

The Namib beetle inspires a revolutionary irrigation system.

An Australian product engineer has won the 2011 Sir James Dyson design award for his Airdrop irrigation system

An Australian engineer who has borrowed the Namib beetle’s survival trick and applied it to a device that extracts water from even the driest desert air has won the 2011 James Dyson Award.

Edward Linacre’s self-powered Airdrop pump and underpipes system has the potential to deliver water to the roots of crops in the most arid places on the planet.

The young Swinburne University of Technology graduate studied the Namib beetle’s ability to survive by consuming the dew it collects on the hydrophilic skin of its back in the early mornings.

The Airdrop, developed in his mother’s garden, mimics this survival system by pumping air through a network of underground pipes to cool it to the point at which the water condenses. 

The water is then distributed to plants.

Sir James Dyson said: “Biomimicry is a powerful weapon in an engineer’s armoury.

Airdrop shows how simple, natural principles like the condensation of water, can be applied to good effect through skilled design and robust engineering.

“Young designers and engineers like Edward will develop the simple, effective technology of the future – they will tackle the world’s biggest problems and improve lives in the process.”

Mr Linacre’s research suggests that 11.5 millilitres of water can be harvested from every cubic meter of air in the driest of deserts and he believes the £10,000 cash prize will help fund an improved prototype that will increase the yield further.

“I’ve had quite a bit of international interest in Airdrop [from] the US, Hong Kong, Middle East and Hungary,” he said. “

I’m in negotiations with a few organisations at the moment. 

Some want to buy the unit itself, but a couple want to look whether the design concept can be integrated into their existing irrigation infrastructure.”

He said he would use the industrial prototype to win over financial backers, who were typically reluctant to invest before they could see the technology worked on a meaningful scale.

One of the two runners up this year was Kwick Screen from the UK – a portable, retractable room divider developed by Michael Korn, a student at the Royal College of Art in London. 

The other was Blindspot from Singapore – an aide for the visually handicapped, helping them travel around unfamiliar surroundings, developed by Se Lui Chew from the National University of Singapore

The judging panel led by Sir James also highly commended the Amo Arm from Canada. 

This device aims to overcome the invasive muscle re-innervation surgery required for amputees and can be trapped on and is controlled using brain signals. 

It was developed by Michal Prywata from Ryerson University.

The competition runs across 18 countries including Japan, Singapore, the US and Germany.

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