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Leeds engineers' crucial role in land speed record attempt

Engineers from University of Leeds spin-out company Instrumentel Ltd have played a crucial role in the next attempt to break the land speed record, announced today.

The Bloodhound project, launched in London by science minister Lord Drayson, is fronted by Richard Noble OBE and Andy Green, the former and current land speed record holders.

The current record of 763 mph (just under 1228 km/h) was set in 1997 at the Black Rock desert in Nevada, and broke the sound barrier for a land vehicle for the first time.  The new attempt will take place within a year of the launch date in a 3-year phased programme, ultimately aimed at increasing the record to 1000mph - faster than a bullet from a gun.

At the heart of the new Bloodhound SSC (super sonic car) is a jet engine from a Typhoon fighter together with a hybrid rocket engine. A V12 racecar engine powers a pump which will deliver one ton of HTP, a highly concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide, to fuel the rocket. The Instrumentel team, led by its founder and CEO Dr Greg Horler, together with Dr David McGorman and Tim Fish, was asked by the Bloodhound team to design an electronic control unit to test the efficacy of the pump, which will have to reach 12,000rpm to empty the equivalent of some 225 gallons of fuel from the tank in under twenty seconds.

Explains Dr Horler: "To pump such a large amount of volatile liquid through a small tank at such a high speeds is an incredibly dangerous business; if it doesn't work perfectly, it could explode at any time. The stresses that this vehicle will undergo are beyond anything experienced before; we're talking speeds that only a few years ago defied the imagination for a car. It's completely unknown territory."

The team developed an integrated electronics system to engage the gearbox and clutch of the V12 engine, control the throttle position and measure data from the pump using bespoke software.

Effectively, we built a system that can measure and analyse all the pressures, temperatures and data needed to test the pump's efficiency," says Dr Horler. "From our test results, several modifications were made to the pump design. Without the electronics the pump couldn't have been developed."

Bloodhound SSC will be driven by Wing Commander Andy Green. If the desired speed is achieved, the car will travel the length of four football pitches literally in the blink of an eye.

Announcing the Bloodhound programme at the ScienceMuseum, Lord Drayson - himself an avid racing driver - described the launch as an iconic project for the 21st century that would help to inspire future generations to take up careers in sciences, technology engineering and mathematics.

He said: "Breaking world land speed records in no longer about strapping an engine onto a buggy and pointing it at the horizon. Today, the application of new and exciting science and technology is the only way to achieve results. Britain has a wonderful heritage of rising to the challenge and this exciting project will see that continue."

Following the launch, a 5-day exhibition will be open to the public at the Science Museum.

For further information: 

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

Instrumentel Ltd specialise in the design and development of electronics destined for harsh or difficult to access environments. See www.instrumentel.com

The bloodhound project website can be seen at www.bloodhoundssc.com

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