The University of Southampton

Engineers on course to make super solar-electric-powered boat

Published: 3 December 2009

A team of academics and students at the University of Southampton have begun work on a solar-electric-powered boat which they claim will be one of the most sophisticated to enter the annual prestigious Solar Splash competition so far.

Team Tarka led by Dr Peter Wilson of the Electronic Systems and Devices group in ECS, comprises experts across the University of Southampton in Electronics, Nanotechnology, Solar Energy and Ship Science. They have come together to design and build a light and efficient boat to compete in next year’s Solar Splash event, which will take place in Arkansas from 9-13 June 2010. In order to develop their ideas and materials further, the team is seeking collaboration with local businesses interested in 'green' boats or buildings, aerospace, engineering or general manufacturing. In 2009 a number of companies sponsored key elements of the boat to a successful outcome, and the team is looking for sponsors at different levels for this year’s competition. Solar Splash is the World Championship of Intercollegiate Solar Boating. The competition takes place over five days, with technical inspections on the first day and the remainder of the time occupied by five on-the-water competitive events, when speed, manoeuvrability and endurance are tested. Last year was the first time that a British university entered a boat in the competition. Despite having virtually no budget for the project and having to economise so much that they bought the boat's motor on eBay, they still managed to come in the top ten, winning awards for the ‘Rookie Team with the Highest Overall Score’ and ‘top teamwork’, ‘sportsmanship’, and a top three finish in the qualifying event, with the result that the team qualified as one of the ‘elite’ boats for 2010. “Last year, we managed to produce a boat which was simple and light,” said Dr Wilson. “This year, due to our new laboratory facilities, carbon fibre expertise and our advances in solar-powered technology, we can invest in a more professionally engineered boat aiming to be one of the most sophisticated solar-powered boats ever designed within the constraints of the Solar Splash competition. “Furthermore, this is now a University-wide team, with significant contributions from the world-leading schools of Electronics and Computer Science, and Engineering Sciences.”

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