For over four decades, Williams has maintained its reputation as one of the leading names in Formula 1. In years past, illustrious racers including Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve topped drivers’ championship leaderboards with help from a Williams car. But with successes now few and far between, the company has looked to its innovation arm, Williams Advanced Engineering, to convert its racing smarts into new technologies in the aerospace, defense and energy sectors.
The division has already landed a contract to design the power and data platforms for the British Army’s armored vehicles, but it’s also spent the better part of a year developing a new way to help supermarkets keep your fresh food cool before you buy it — and it may soon come to a store near you.
The Financial Times reports that Williams Advanced Engineering and Aerofoil Energy are weeks away from showing off a new aerofoil system that reduces the amount of cold air that escapes from fridges and chiller cabinets in and supermarkets convenience stores. Created by Aerofoil Energy but refined by Williams, the thin strips of plastic attach to refrigerator shelves and use fluid dynamics models to channel cold air back into the unit. The result is energy savings of between 10 and 32 percent (depending on the size of the fridge) and fewer frosty aisles on your weekly shop.
UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, which has already taken huge steps toward reducing its carbon footprint, began trialing the technology back in June and has committed to installing strips in more stores across the UK before deciding on a full rollout. Aerofoil Energy Managing Director Paul McAndrew says as many as eight of the top 10 UK supermarkets are considering the strips, and that the company is also weighing up an expansion into the US, Africa and China.
With refrigeration typically accounting for over half of the total energy use in grocery stores, some chains have resorted to installing doors, which place a barrier between the customer and their produce. Aerofoil’s solution can be fixed to existing cabinets and use technology normally reserved for aeroplane wings and Formula 1 car spoilers, keeping food chilled but not customers.