A team of University PhD researchers have won first prize in the Energy YES competition with their idea for a cheap, lightweight composite material to replace heavy steel used in the walls of shipping containers.
The winning team, Absol Composites, from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath, developed an idea for a lightweight composite material that would also have good strength without being brittle.
A key benefit of a lighter weight shipping container is a reduction in fuel consumption as approximately 12 per cent of the weight of a fully loaded steel shipping container is made up of the container itself. There are other benefits to not making containers out of steel, including the new composite being more resistant to corrosion and also easier to x-ray at customs using a low powered soft x-ray.
Energy YES (Energy Young Entrepreneurs Scheme) is a national competition that aims to develop the entrepreneurial skills of researchers whilst also helping to solve some of the most serious challenges facing the energy industry. The competition is organised by The University of Nottingham’s Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HGI) and the Network of Energy Doctoral Training Centres and is aimed at energy research PhD students. Alstom Power provided the use of its premises in Rugby for the three-day workshop and competition final as well as supplying guest speakers, mentors and judges.
With a prize of £1,000 for the winning idea, a total of 50 researchers from around the country took part in a workshop to develop business plans for their energy sector-specific idea before pitching their plan ‘Dragons' Den’ style, to a panel of judges.
“Energy YES was a fantastic opportunity to gain an insight into the world of entrepreneurship and the challenges associated with setting up a new business,” says team member Emily Hayward. “The mentors, from a range of different companies and areas of expertise, were enthusiastic to hear our ideas and to share their own knowledge and experiences with us to help us develop our business model. We were challenged at every step to make sure that our plans were as strong as they could possibly be,” she notes.
Absol Composites is now taking its idea to the Energy YES sister competition, Engineering YES, which takes place on 18 June.