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Harrow innovator wins Young Pioneer Award with University team

Premal Gadhia, aged 22 from Harrow – along with a team of four others from Imperial College London – has been named Young Pioneer at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) E&T Innovation Awards ceremony.

Voted by the public, the team consisting of Shafae Ali (22), Alfie Mcmeeking (23), Andy Ferdinand (22), Premal Gadhia (22) and Judith Weill (22) were named the E&T Young Pioneer for their project to make the footwear industry sustainable through AR digital skins and 3D-printed biodegradable self-healing technology.

The team aim to address this and develop the most sustainable shoe for 2040; this will be achieved by reducing the number of shoes consumed, making footwear fully biodegradable, and simplifying the manufacturing process.

The technologies to enable this are augmented reality (AR), biomaterials, and 3D printing. Decoupling fashion from the materials and manufacture of a shoe is a major step in rethinking sustainability in the industry.

Integrated within the shoe is a biodegradable RFID chip to aid with the identification of users, enabling multi-user AR, and the placement of the unique digital footwear mapped to the foot. Given one shoe can now become any, the ‘base’ shoe has been designed to optimise sustainability and comfort.

The team developed the concept of 3D-​printed fully biodegradable nanocellulose footwear with self-healing capabilities to extend its usable lifetime. The shoe is able to regenerate up to 50 per cent of its total surface area, through a user-specific microvascular healing structure.

The biopolymer healing fluid is circulated by a biomechanic synced pump system. This was physically prototyped and digitally iterated over 350 simulations. The pump mechanism is an innovation that has scope beyond the sustainability industry.

On winning, team co-leader Shafae Ali said: “The E&T Awards are important for us as our project mission is focused on creating a sustainable future for the footwear industry. This aligns with the goals of the Young Pioneer category – tackling the major engineering challenges we face as a society today to make tomorrow better – and provides us with the network and capability to pursue funding. The team is extremely grateful to everyone who voted for us and supported our journey, it’s an amazing feeling to get this result. We’re excited to further develop our concept, looking at biomaterials, 3D printing and the novel shoe pump mechanism, of which its uses go far beyond the current application in areas such as energy storage.”

Other innovations that won prizes at this year’s awards included the first functional dengue fever early warning system and a laser-based sensor that can help to diagnose heart and lung disease.

Now in its seventeenth year, the E&T Innovation Awards are the ultimate celebration for people, projects and organisations that are revolutionising our world through excellence in engineering and technology.

This year’s Awards, hosted by Fran Scott, included a host of new categories to reflect the societal challenges that rely on engineers and technologists for their solution. The Young Pioneer Award was voted by the public in the lead up to the ceremony and on the night, with nearly 5,000 votes cast.

The judging panel were full of praise: “This entry has so much going for it. It has the potential to significantly improve the sustainability of the footwear industry and also be a huge commercial success. We like how it has been designed to include various cutting-edge technologies such as augmented reality, biomaterials, and 3D printing.”

IET President, Sir Julian Young added: “These annual awards celebrate the achievements of the most outstanding innovators across engineering and technology.  Our finalists come from a diverse range of companies and academic institutions from across the world, with their innovations tackling major economic and societal challenges.

“With the IET’s mission to inspire excellence in engineering and technology, we are so proud to demonstrate our support, putting ground-breaking innovations in the spotlight and helping to advance this essential and fundamental work.  On behalf of all ourmembers, I send a huge congratulations to all our winners.”

The E&T Awards are sponsored by MathWorks, Arrow Electronics, Emerson, GCHQ and National Grid. The Awards took place on Thursday 25 November – you can find out more about the Awards here: eandt.theiet.org/innovation.

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