A show to fire the imagination

February 5, 2008

Hot Stuff

The two things guaranteed to arouse the interest of engineers everywhere are high speed and loud noise. Visitors to the Southern Manufacturing & Electronics Show  08 (FIVE, Farnborough, February 6-7th) have the chance to get up close to a piece of homespun engineering brilliance that features both in plentiful measure. On display will be an incredible experimental rocket-powered drag racer, Laffin Gas. Powered by four hybrid rocket motors, Laffin Gas was developed and built by a UK-based team of engineers and self-confessed speed freaks, headed by husband and wife Carolynne Campbell and David Knight, along with Fred Thomas and a dedicated team of specialists and helpers.

Laffin Gas’s hybrid rocket motor uses the unlikely combination of cardboard and cooking oil, which is burnt in a high-pressure stream of Nitrous Oxide gas to create a hypersonic exhaust flow. Using their unique bio-fuel technology, Laffin Gas’s four engines are theoretically capable of developing an incredible 12,000lbs of thrust – more than enough to propel the car to record-breaking velocities. Hybrid rocket technology employs a combination of liquid and solid fuels, and is the technology which powers SpaceShipOne – the world’s first privately built space vehicle.

Styling themselves the “Fred Dibnah’s of rocket science”, the Laffin Gas team have made impressive progress in developing hybrid rocket technology to the point where it is a highly effective, clean-burning and comparatively safe propulsion system, ideally suited to drag racing. Phil Valentine, managing director of show organiser ETES, says, ”The combination of ingenuity, vision and engineering skill shown by the Laffin Gas team is a perfect illustration of all that’s best in UK engineering. We are really pleased to welcome the team to the show, and we expect their presence to generate a lot of interest.”

The Southern Manufacturing & Electronics Show historically draws a high percentage of its visitors from the aerospace and autosport engineering community. Key product areas on display include surface engineering and coatings, composites, low cost tooling, digital manufacture, engine components and assembly integration. The new FIVE exhibition facility alongside Farnborough International Airport in Hampshire offers plentiful free car parking, superb access by road, rail or air, and an excellent selection of local hotels and restaurants. Entry to the show, and the seminar programme, is free for business visitors. Southern Manufacturing is a must-see event for anyone involved with engineering, and a pretty unique chance to get up close to some genuine automotive history.