The University of Southampton

Southampton to sail with Solar Splash

Published: 17 November 2008

In conjunction with the student IEEE branch, an ECS academic plans to enter a solar-powered boat in the world championship of intercollegiate solar/electric boating next year.

Dr Peter Wilson of the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is running a team in conjunction with the Student Branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which plans to design and build a boat which will be both energy efficient and fast. He will capitalise on the School’s track record in the development of solar cells and electronics, and deliver an electric-powered boat clad with these cells.

The School is well placed to undertake this ambitious project as the University already has two solar installations on campus and is investigating new types of solar cell based on nanotechnology. The School has extensive experience in renewable energy systems, power electronics and electronics design and this, coupled with the local expertise in ocean racing, could prove a powerful mix of skills.

‘This will be the first UK entrant in this international competition, and it is fitting that it comes from Southampton’, said Dr Wilson. Dr Wilson believes that a boat from Southampton could over time be a strong contender in Solar Splash, the World Championship of Intercollegiate Solar Boating, which will take place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA, from 27-31 May 2009.

The city’s expertise in this field and ECS’s track record in solar cell installations and power electronics could make a formidable team and Dr Wilson would like to hear from local boat builders interested in being involved.

‘It is vital for the team to have sufficient sponsorship to complete the build and also send the team members over to the USA, and we will rely entirely on sponsorship to make this happen. We hope that local companies will see the benefits from aligning with such an ambitious and exciting project, and become involved. We see this as a fantastic opportunity to engage with local businesses, large and small, and would be delighted to talk to anyone who can make a contribution of any size to the project,’ said Dr Wilson.

Dr Wilson has formed a team of postgraduate students from the University’s award-winning IEEE Student Branch to work on the design, and is now looking for sponsors to enable the project to become fully funded. The plan is in future years to position it as a series of undergraduate projects, when the experience of an initial competition has been gained.

‘It is the first time that we have done a project of this scale,’ said Dr Wilson. ’It will allow students to think outside the box when it comes to applications for solar cells. It is also a prime time for local building suppliers and boat builders to invest in renewable energy and advanced electronics technology. We hope this can be a showcase for technology and the skills here in Southampton on a global stage’

Solar Splash takes place over five days. Technical inspections are done on the first day and the remainder of the time is occupied by five on-the-water competitive events. Speed, manoeuvrability and endurance will be tested.

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