Engineers at leading Formula One team Williams adapt a plastic airflow device used in their cars to help cut the energy use of supermarket refrigerators. Jim Drury has more.
The cutting edge technology behind Formula One cars isn't limited to the racetrack. Engineers at F-1 team Williams adapt much of their expertise to help industry. And this aerofoil device they've created could help supermarkets make big energy savings, says technical director Paul McNamara. SOUNDBITE (English) WILLIAMS' TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, PAUL McNAMARA, SAYING: "The way we've got these fridges set up at the moment is that we've got this small gap between the shelf and the first design of aerofoil and the idea is the cold air comes off the shelf, we catch it and it rolls down to the next one. So the new aerofoil which we're using, that we made back in Williams, will substitute for what we've got here and we've given it a very clean aerofoil shape that we've developed and we can test it to develop the angle that's going to work best to get that cold air going back into the shelf below." Working alongside start-up Aerofoil Energy, they're trialling the device at various stores, such as this Sainsbury's in Buckingham. Sainsbury's say it's too early to quantify their energy savings, but independent tests of the technology showed figures of up to 40 percent. This is significant, as Williams say supermarkets account for more than 5 percent of Britain's total energy use, most of it consumed by chill cabinets like these. McNamara says the aerofoils can be retrofitted on any existing model. SOUNDBITE (English) WILLIAMS' TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, PAUL McNAMARA, SAYING: "The really great thing about this invention is that it doesn't have to go into the base of the fridge. We can put it on the front of the existing stock of fridges around the UK, so it has the potential that we can roll it out across the complete supermarket network." It will also cut supermarkets' energy bills, while improving the experience of shoppers by reducing the cold air spilling into the aisles. Aerofoils are aerodynamic devices originally designed to help channel the airflow around an object to improve its performance, such as an F1 car or an aeroplane. But as scientists race for solutions to cut carbon emissions and energy costs, Williams are showing one potential road ahead.