Racing kayak put to the test

A team of academics are creating a high performance racing kayak out of recycled carbon fibre and entering the International Canoe Race this Easter.

Dr Gary Leeke from EXHUME is leading a team of scientists and engineers to make a kayak out of fibre reinforced composite materials, which is believed to be a world first.

Kayak being made from recycled compositesGary is so confident in the processes of creating the material, he will be putting his money where his mouth is, and racing the kayak 125 miles non-stop in the International Canoe Race with his teammate Professor Liam Grover.

The International Canoe Race starts in Devizes, Wiltshire, finishing just downstream of Westminster Bridge in central London, opposite the Houses of Parliament. The race, which has 77 portages, is a test of planning, skill as well as physical and mental stamina and is a major event in the sporting calendar.

Gary is an enthusiastic paddler and wanted to showcase that the kayak his team has created, can withstand the toughest of races. The International Canoe race is compared with climbing Everest.

Composites are very difficult to recycle and the team at the University of Birmingham has developed a technique using a process called solvolysis. They have created a material from recycled composites, which is as strong as the original, unmodified material.

Gary said: “The kayak is only two to three millimetres thick. The material is light, extremely strong and hardwearing. It can be used in a huge number of applications as well as high performance sporting goods as demonstrated by our kayak.

“We are excited to be putting the material to the test with the creation of the kayak. By racing it myself, with my teammate Liam, we will know first hand how suitable the material is.”

The material has been created to illustrate that composites can be recycled and used in manufacturing processes with industry. Recycled composites could have a large part to play in the future of manufacturing within industries such as automotive, renewable energy and construction.

There is a huge need to do this as the majority of composites are currently sent to landfill. This is becoming an increasing burden on the environment and it is expected that by 2025 it will be illegal to send composites to landfill in the UK.

Watch an interview with Gary