Following one of Australia’s worst droughts in decades, 27-year-old Edward Linacre set out to create an irrigation system to help farmers in dried-out agricultural land.
Linacre won the 2011 James Dyson Award with his Airdrop irrigation system. This award is a high profile, international student design competition that strives to support design, technology and engineering education, medical research charities and local community projects. The graduate of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne received $15,500, as does his school.
"Winning the prize will mean I can develop and test the Airdrop system,” Linacre said. “It has the potential to help farmers around the world, and I'm up for the challenge of rolling it out."
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The low-cost and self-powered Airdrop extracts water molecules plants cannot access from the air. Solar panels charge battery-powered air turbines that heat and draw air into underground cooling towers. Water within the air condenses after cooling and is collected in underground tanks to be pumped to plants in underground dripper pipes. Farmers can observe the system with an LCD screen that shows tank water levels, pressure strength, solar battery life and overall system health.
The concept for Airdrop was created after observing the Namib beetle, a desert-dwelling insect that consumes early-morning dew collected on its back through its hydrophilic skin.
"Biomimicry is a powerful weapon in an engineer's armoury," said James Dyson of the James Dyson Foundation. "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 Ed will develop the simple, effective technology of the future - they will tackle the world's biggest problems and improve lives in the process."