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University of Southampton students hope to make a splash in the engineering world with their solar-powered boat

Published: 8 April 2009

An academic and a team of post graduate students at the University of Southampton are making final preparations to their solar-powered boat ahead of a major engineering competition. Solar Splash, the World Championship of Intercollegiate Solar Boating, takes place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA from 27-31 May 2009.

Dr Peter Wilson of the University's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is heading a team in conjunction with the student branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which has designed and built a solar boat to be energy efficient and fast.

The innovative, environmentally-friendly vessel will have its final test run on the water at 9.30am on Thursday 16 April at the University boat hard at Woodmill in Southampton. It will then be carefully packed up and shipped to America ready for the event.

Team ‘Tarka’ have capitalised on the School's track record in the development of solar cells and electronics to deliver an electric-powered boat clad with these cells. It has been 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.

"This will be the first UK entrant in this international competition, and it is fitting that it comes from Southampton," said Dr Wilson.

"It is the first time that we have done a project of this scale. It allows students to think outside the box when it comes to applications for solar cells. We hope this can be a showcase for technology and the skills here at the University of 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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