Australian irrigation invention wins James Dyson Award

8 Nov 2011

Inventor Edward Linacre

Australian inventor Edward Linacre has won the 2011 International James Dyson Award for an invention which extracts water from the air to aid crops in drought-stricken areas.

Linacre, from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, will be awarded stg£10,000 for himself and stg£10,000 for his university department.

The invention, called Airdrop, was inspired by droughts in Australia. He studied the Namib beetle, which lives in one of the driest places on earth. To survive, the beetle must consume the dew it collects on its hydrophilic skin off its back in early morning.

This research aided the creation of Airdrop, which pumps air through underground pipes and cools it so that water condenses. It then delivers this liquid to roots of plants for crop growth.

His research suggests that 11.5 millilitres of water can be harvested from every cubic metre of air in the driest of deserts and believes that further versions of his design will increase the yield of Airdrop.

“Biomimicry is a powerful weapon in an engineer’s armoury,” said James Dyson, founder of the Dyson company.

“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,” he said.

The James Dyson Award is run by the James Dyson Foundation, which aims to support design, technology and engineering education. It works with numerous schools and universities across the globe.

This year’s runners-up includes Kwick Screen, a retractable room divider developed by UK-based Michael Korn and Blindspot, an aide for the visually impaired to help them travel around unfamiliar territories developed by Se Lui Chew from Singapore.

Laura O’Brien