CARRUTHERS Renewables has teamed up with the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), to explore manufacturing methods for a water wheel capable of combating electricity scarcity in developing countries.

The one-year £250,000 project is helping the company to exploit the AFRC’s expertise in advanced manufacturing methods before selecting the most cost effective and sustainable way of making the wheels.

The feasibility study has gained letters of support from the likes of the Crown Estate, Scottish Water and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, with a computational model of the wheel set to be unveiled at the Hydro 2020 Conference in France later this year. The Carruthers Wheel has a unique smooth water action inside, giving it high efficiency at an unprecedented range of flows.

The first waterwheel to be patented in 138 years, Carruthers Wheel produces electricity from waterfalls and rivers with less than five metres drop. This was previously deemed unviable and unprofitable because of the high cost of turbines for small bodies of water.

Following production, the flat-pack wheels will be shipped to small communities across the world, where they can be installed and maintained by local workers. In many cases, the wheels will provide electricity to communities for the first time.

Specially designed blades allow the Carruthers Wheel to harness the full potential of a river to harness a low cost supply of power.

Invented by former maths lecturer turned civil engineer, Penelope Carruthers, the new water wheel does not interfere with the course of the water, making it more eco-friendly than a traditional mill or turbine installation, which can have a negative impact on a river’s ecosystem.

Carruthers said: “In the past, sites with lower than a five metre drop have been identified as a possibility for a 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.

“The support we have received from the AFRC so far has been incredible. We have been working together to secure the best manufacturing route allowing easy install and maintenance of the wheel, along with the ability to withstand harsh environments. Above all, the goal is to make a wheel that will provide electricity to people who are currently living with no access to the grid and the progress made so far has been ground-breaking.”

Within the Carruthers Wheel project, the AFRC has played an integral part in developing the consortium and has been responsible for aspects on technical delivery in the design of the wheel.

Ekaterina McKenna, Business Development Executive 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.

She added: “Carruthers Wheel is a fantastic opportunity to deliver huge positive economic, societal and environmental impact in Scotland, across the UK and across the world.”