By Ian McConnell

A PERTH company has teamed up with the University of Strathclyde to pursue its vision of manufacturing water wheels which can be shipped in flat packs to communities in developing countries around the world to provide them with electricity.

Carruthers Renewables has joined forces with the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre, part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, to explore manufacturing methods for a patented water wheel capable of combating electricity scarcity in developing countries.

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The first water wheel patented in 138 years, the Carruthers Wheel produces electricity from waterfalls and rivers with less than five metres drop. Carruthers Renewables and the AFRC noted this had previously been deemed unviable and unprofitable because of the high cost of turbines for small bodies of water.

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The pair’s one-year, £250,000 project, funded by the Department for International Development and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council through the Innovate UK Energy Catalyst, is helping Carruthers Renewables to exploit the centre’s expertise in advanced manufacturing methods before selecting the most cost-effective and sustainable way of making the wheels.

The AFRC and Carruthers Renewables said: “Following production, the intention is that flat-pack Carruthers Wheels will be shipped to small communities across the world, where they can be installed and maintained by local unskilled workers. In many cases, the wheels will provide electricity to communities for the first time.”

The wheel has been invented by former maths lecturer turned civil engineer Penelope Carruthers.

Ekaterina McKenna, at the AFRC, said: “According to a recent United Nations hydropower report, there are millions of sites worldwide with a river or waterfall of less than five metres drop, especially across sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia. In the small communities surrounding these sites, less than 10% of the population have access to electricity.”

Ms Carruthers said: “In the past, sites with lower than a five-metre drop have been identified as a possibility for...hydropower before a decision was made to move on due to the high costs. With millions of such sites across the world, there remains a hugely untapped resource, which has the possibility to change the lives of people in the surrounding towns and villages.”