Dyson sinks £1.4m into Cambridge engineering chair

Intellectual vacuum

Vacuum-maker James Dyson has plunged over a million pounds into funding engineering research at Cambridge University.

And he doesn't just want the funded boffins looking at vacuum cleaners. One of the billionaire's stipulations for the post is that it will encourage speculative research into areas that may not be commercially viable now, but could provide technologies for the future.

The billionaire will put £1.4m into a 10-year professorship in fluid mechanics at the university and will also fund post-graduate research and provide cash for individual projects.

Dyson and Cambridge University have previously collaborated into research on carbon nanotubes, which could be used for things as various as replacing the copper in electrical wires, making cloth bullet proof clothing and manufacturing paper-thin batteries.

"They are researching in areas in which we are interested but they can do what they want to do. We are hoping that something interesting comes out of it. If it does we will take it up and hopefully commercialise it," he told the Guardian. Cambridge University will retain the patent and license the technology.

But the core work of the funded chair will on fluid mechanics, especially airflow in fans and compressors in the hope of bringing better cooling to the many machines that use fans – from laptops to cars.

Fluid mechanics was the research area that led to Dyson's innovations with vacuum cleaners and hand driers. ®

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