Academics to test hi-tech canoe in gruelling race

Composites are very difficult to recycle and the team at the University of Birmingham has developed a technique using a process called solvolysis

A team of academics is creating a high performance racing kayak out of recycled carbon fibre and entering the International Canoe Race this Easter.

Gary Leeke, who is based at the department of chemical engineering at the University of Birmingham, is leading a team of scientists and engineers to make a kayak out of fibre reinforced composite materials, which is believed to be a world first.

Leeke will be racing the kayak 125 miles in the International Canoe Race with his teammate Professor Liam Grover.

The International Canoe Race starts in Devizes, Wiltshire on 25 March, finishing just downstream of Westminster Bridge in central London, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Composites are very difficult to recycle and the team at the University of Birmingham has developed a technique using a process called solvolysis. They have created a material from recycled composites, which is as strong as the original, unmodified material.

Leeke said: “We have been training for a number of weeks on the River Severn and the Kennet and Avon canal. We are hopeful that we will complete the race in good time. 

“The kayak is only two to three millimetres thick. The material is light, extremely strong and hardwearing. It can be used in a huge number of applications as well as high performance sporting goods as demonstrated by our kayak.

“We are excited to be putting the material to the test with the creation of the kayak. By racing it myself, with my teammate Liam, we will know first-hand how suitable the material is.”