Carruthers Renewables has teamed up 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.

The one-year £250k project, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the Innovate UK Energy Catalyst, is currently 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 now 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 ready to be unveiled at the Hydro 2020 Conference in France later this year – the first to predict behaviour and aid future design of a waterwheel of such a specific geometry. The Carruthers Wheel has a unique smooth water action within the wheel, which explains its high efficiency at an unprecedented range of flows.

The first waterwheel to be patented in 138 years, Carruthers Wheel is said to be truly innovative, producing electricity from waterfalls and rivers at locations with heads of less than five metres. This was previously considered non-viable and unprofitable because of the high cost of turbines for small bodies of water.

Following production, the intention is that flat-pack 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. 

Operating at a range of speeds and flows, specially designed blades allow the Carruthers Wheel to harness the full potential of a river to produce a low cost supply of power. Invented by former maths lecturer turned civil engineer, Penelope Carruthers, the new wheel does not interfere with the course of the water, making it more environmentally friendly than a traditional mill or turbine installation, which can have a negative impact on a river’s ecosystem.