On the side of a busy main road leading into Dundee, on the east coast of Scotland, a small wind turbine spins in the wind of passing cars and trucks. As it rotates, it charges a battery that is below the ground.

This is the prototype of an invention by Sanwal Muneer, a young entrepreneur from Pakistan, which has received funding from Shell and won an award from the United Nations.

Muneer was inspired to create the turbine as he stood on the side of a Malaysian racetrack four years ago. “At first, the breeze from the cars was just a welcome relief from the humidity,” he says. “Then I started to think about how we could use that energy.”

The turbine stands two-and-a-half metres tall. Made of recyclable carbon fibre, it weighs just nine kilogrammes, making it easy to transport and install. The fully-charged battery can hold a kilowatt of electricity, enough to run two lamps and a fan for around 40 hours. The idea is that this could be a source of electricity for rural communities in developing countries, or could power traffic lights or road signs in urban areas.

Dundee City Council is the first local authority to allow Muneer’s company, Capture Mobility, to test the turbine beside its roads. “Reusing our energy is so important,” says Neil Gellatly, head of roads and transportation for Dundee City Council. “We want to help engineers create something inventive which is also beneficial for the city.”

Early challenges

Capture Mobility moved to Scotland from Pakistan in 2015 under the global entrepreneur programme of the government body, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). The Scottish government is investing in cleaner-energy technologies. Wind is also strong and plentiful all year round. This made it a good location for Muneer’s company.

The Capture Mobility team consists of Asad Liaquat, a friend of Muneer’s since university days in Islamabad, Pakistan, when they were both studying electrical engineering; and Muneer’s sister, Sidra, who has a Master of Business Administration degree.

Production costs remain the company’s biggest challenge. The turbines must be affordable in developing countries, but achieving this will depend on reaching commercial scale.

Capture Mobility is now working with academics from the University of Edinburgh to analyse data from the turbine.

Later this year, the company plans to send the next stage of the design to the manufacturers who built the prototype. “I am passionate about engineering,” Muneer says. “But engineering is only a success if it improves lives.”

Story by Sarah Kempe

Capture Mobility was a 2015 winner in the Shell LiveWIRE programme, which awards start-up grants for innovative ideas for sustainable living.

The company was also named as one of the top 20 global innovative businesses by Falling Walls Foundation in Berlin, which recognises breakthroughs in science and society. Capture Mobility’s turbine won the UN Clean Energy Award in 2014.

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