Swinburne University graduate Edward Linacre is the winner of this year’s James Dyson Award, receiving $14,000 for an irrigation system that pulls liquid moisture straight out of dry desert air.
The James Dyson Award is an international student design award, held across 18 countries including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Asia.
The award is open to university-level students and recent graduates, who must be studying product design, industrial design or engineering.
Edward Linacre, a former student of Swinburne University in Melbourne, beat all other entrants this year to take out the grand prize of the James Dyson Award.
The 27-year-old walks away with $14,000 for his agricultural invention while Swinburne University also receives $14,000.
Swinburne University is well known for its entrepreneurial focus. Every year, the university holds the Swinburne Venture Cup, a competition whereby students compete for up to $30,000.
Lincacre’s invention, Airdrop, is an irrigation system that can pull liquid moisture out of dry desert air. It was designed as a low-cost, self-powered solution to growing crops in arid regions.
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Linacre drew inspiration from the Namib beetle, a desert-dwelling species that survives by consuming the dew it collects on the hydrophilic skin on its back.
Airdrop uses the same concept, working on the principle that even the driest air contains water molecules that can be extracted by lowering the air’s temperature to the point of condensation.
It pumps air through a network of underground pipes to cool it to the point at which the water condenses, delivering water directly to the roots of plants.
“It’s basically a response to the devastating effects of drought. There’s a big search for alternative sources of water,” Linacre says.
“There are water-harvesting technologies out there but there’s very few low-tech solutions. A low-tech solution is perfect for rural farmers.”
“It doesn’t need a specialised unit to come and install it. It’s easy to install, simply like installing a rainwater tank. That’s what I wanted – I wanted farmers to be able to install [and maintain] this themselves.”
“The whole thing has been designed so you can deconstruct it for maintenance while it’s still in the ground and you can build it back again after you’ve repaired it.”
Runner-ups in the 2011 James Dyson Awards include KwickScreen, a portable and retractable room divider for hospital use, and Blindspot, which uses a special cane and location-based social apps to help the visually-impaired locate their friends.