Wednesday, 9 November 2011
James Dyson Award winner 2011:
Airdrop overcomes drought, with inspiration from a beetle.
Engineering, not magic: the 2011 winner of the James Dyson Award extracts water from thin air. Airdrop is a low cost,
self powered, and easy to install solution to the problems of growing crops in arid regions.
Inspired by Australia’s worst drought in a century, Edward Linacre from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne,
turned to nature to find ways of capturing moisture from air. Edward studied the Namib beetle, an ingenious species
which lives in one of the driest places on earth. With half an inch of rain per year, the beetle can only survive by
consuming the dew it collects on the hydrophilic skin of its back in the early mornings.
Airdrop borrows this concept, working on the principle that even the driest air contains water molecules which can be
extracted by lowering the air’s temperature to the point of condensation. It pumps air through a network of underground
pipes, to cool it to the point at which the water condenses. Delivering water directly to the roots of plants.
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.”
Edward’s research suggests that 11.5 millilitres of water can be harvested from every cubic meter of air in the driest
of deserts. Further iterations of his design will increase the yield of Airdrop. He said, “winning the award’s £10,000 prize will
mean I can develop and test the Airdrop system. It has the potential to help farmers around the world and I’m up for the
challenge of rolling it out”. A further £10,000 has also be awarded to Edward’s university department to support other
young engineers keen to follow in his footsteps.
A portable, retractable room divider developed by Michael Korn, a student at the Royal College of Art in London. The
KwickScreen allows healthcare professionals to make the best use of available space; giving maximum privacy, dignity and
protection to patients. Michael explored the use bistable materials such as slap on bracelets and tape measures, and
like Edward drew inspiration from concepts found in nature, including the Venus fly trap and a frog’s tongue.
An aide for the visually handicapped, helping them travel around unfamiliar surroundings, developed by Se Lui Chew from
the National University of Singapore. Blindspot informs the user of nearby friends using information from
geographical-based social apps such as Foursquare, and communicates with them via a Bluetooth earpiece connected to the
cane. The cane guides the user to their friend using a horizontally rolling ball on the cane handle which points in the
direction they should walk.
Michal Prywata from Ryerson University, Canada, developed Amo Arm to overcome the invasive muscle re-innervation surgery
required for amputees. It can be strapped on and is controlled using brain signals, avoiding major surgery and the long
rehabilitation period after.
The James Dyson Award
• The International James Dyson Award winner will receive: £10,000 (for the student or the team) and £10,000 for the
winner’s university department. Runners up for the overall James Dyson award will receive £2000 each.
• All of this year’s entries can be seen on the website www.jamesdysonaward.org
• The award was open to any student of product design, industrial design or design engineering (or graduate within four
years of graduation) who is studying or studied in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Italy,
Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA.
• The James Dyson Award is run by the James Dyson Foundation, a registered charity with the aim of supporting design,
technology and engineering education, medical research charities and local community projects. The James Dyson
Foundation works with schools and universities around the UK and internationally.
• Dyson is in the process of doubling the number of engineers at its UK research and development centre. Several
previous award winners and runners-up have gone on to be employed by Dyson.
• For more information on the work of the James Dyson Foundation and news visit www.facebook.com/JamesDysonFoundation
• The 2012 James Dyson Award will open for entries in early 2012 – visit www.jamesdysonaward.org
for more information.