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Semta Skills Awards 2020: Nominations deadline extended until 11th December 2019

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‘Semta’ Sam making waves

Brilliant Engineer Powers Energy Breakthrough 

A Brilliant young engineer Sam Etherington, is on the crest of a wave as his low cost efficient energy generator is launched in Glasgow – and begins final testing off the Shetland Islands.

Having grown up in the Lake District and developed expertise in his family engineering business, design engineer Sam Etherington saw the potential of wave power technology. Compelled to overhaul the sector and bring a new approach, he founded Aqua Power Technologies Limited where he invented MANTA, a wave energy generator which converts the rising and falling of ocean waves into electricity. In optimal conditions, one MANTA alone has the potential to power as many as five homes, making it accessible even in some of the UK’s most remote coastal areas.

The design takes inspiration from the wingspan of Manta rays, which unlike traditional methods, uses the lightweight and large surface areas to harness the full power of the wave; a novel, efficient, lightweight, and low cost approach. As a small scale system it has a variety of potential applications, suggesting the potential to transform the renewable energy industry.

Sam’s abilities were recognised by the industry several years ago when he won the James Dyson Award and joined the Semta Engineering Hall of Fame alongside the most illustrious engineers of their generation past and present (including Isambard Kingdom Brunel, George Stephenson and Sir John Fleming). He also had his achievement recognised at the high profile Semta Skills Awards in 2014.

Sam said: “The support and recognition that Semta provided not only gave the technology a profile boost, but it certainly played its part in the successful venture capital rounds I have been through.

“Investors took comfort in a large industry recognised organisation, like Semta, acknowledging that the designs and innovations I am working on are at a high level and warrant investments. It sounds clichéd, but I suspect that my progression in developing the wave power technology would be at a lower level if it had not been for Semta’s timely recognition. Semta can definitely claim to have been a contributing factor to the development of MANTA.”

Ann Watson, CEO of Semta said: “It’s doubly rewarding to know that Semta’s recognition of Sam’s abilities has helped to raise his profile and played an important part in the launch of the Manta project. He is the epitome of the spirit of Semta – as we champion skills in the engineering sector – and back British industry.”

Following this success, he won several awards including Shell Livewire’s Future Impact.

Sam said: “For me, nature is the starting point; the environment maintains balance independently of any human input. When tackling climate change, it seems logical that we should look to nature’s blueprint for answers. Engineering was once dominated by electrical and mechanical engineers. Now design engineering is rising to the fore and empowering a new generation of engineers to develop a more holistic approach to problem-solving. My ambition is to launch MANTA into new and existing markets, and to continuing striving for carbon neutral design.”

How it works

In contrast to seabed devices, which are costly and can negatively impact the environment, and above water systems which are subject to traitorous conditions, MANTA is submerged 10-20m underwater meaning it operates in a calmer aspect of the water column.

Connected to any floating object by a chain, MANTA’s large ‘wings’ are hydrodynamically forced up and down by the motion of the sea, creating a very sensitive system, even in small waves. The moving ‘wings’ actuate the generator, which converts the ‘wings’ reciprocating motion into a power. Unlike existing energy systems, Etherington has uniquely designed MANTA’s direct drive generator which does not use gears, hydraulics, oil or shaft seals making it very reliable and maintenance free for long periods of time.

MANTA launches today (Wednesday 2nd May) at the All Energy show in Glasgow. As a pilot scheme, it will begin its final testing phase at a salmon farm off the coast of Shetland this summer. It is anticipated that the commercial product will be available on the market later next year.

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