Drivin’ on sunshine

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on October 31, 2019

TWO recent Albany Senior High School graduates made it into the big leagues this month when they participated in one of the most technological car challenges in the world.

Aiden Matson and Michael Taylor, currently studying at Australian National University (ANU), were part of a 40-person team in last fortnight’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

The aim of the challenge was to build a race vehicle entirely powered by the sun and able to journey approximately 3000km between Darwin and Adelaide.

The pair’s team, MTA A Super Sol Invictus, ranked 25th in the Challenger Class and was one of only eight Australian teams participating.

The other 36 teams hailed from secondary and tertiary institutions in the USA, the Netherlands, Chile, Singapore, Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, Poland, Sweden, Canada, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Taylor and Mr Matson were involved in engineering the solar array and steering systems for their team’s car, the MTAA Super Charge 2.

“To race a vehicle powered by the sun, you need a reliable, aerodynamic, lightweight and low energy-loss vehicle,” Mr Matson said.

“Our chassis is manufactured from a carbon fibre weave with a Nomex paper core, layering the two materials like a sandwich.

“The motor driving our car is one designed by the CSIRO, with an incredible efficiency of 98.3 per cent.”

The MTA A Super Sol Invictus team worked on the car in conjunction with their own ANU studies and utilised their university’s resources to construct it.

“We laid out each system and simulated their breaking conditions using 3D design software, then milled, turned and laser-cut our components at the University ourselves,” Mr Matson said.

“The biggest thing I worked on in the car was wiring up the solar array and making the connections reliable enough to go the distance – specifically the 3000-plus km of the challenge,” Mr Taylor added.

Both Mr Matson and Mr Taylor are eyeing off the 2021 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge and hoped to build on ANU’s previous successes.

“This season was the second time ANU has competed in the event, and with much more success this time,” Mr Matson said.

“Next season, we need to do more rigorous testing so that everything is ironed out for the race itself.

“We can also make many changes to improve the car’s efficiency, so we maintain a higher speed for the duration of the race.”

Professor Nick Birbilis, Deputy Dean of the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, said he was extremely proud of the ANU team.

“The breadth of expertise which makes up this team is truly outstanding,” he said.

“We feel privileged that our students are provided with opportunities to play a part in this innovative and forward-thinking space.”


Photo: Courtesy Australian National University