Professor Stephen Salter receives top Academy Award

Professor Stephen Salter honoured for his contributions and innovations to mitigating climate change.

  • Pioneering work in the fields of renewable energy and geoengineering.

The Royal Academy of Engineering Sustained Achievement Award 2012 is to be presented to Professor Stephen Salter, whose career as an engineer holds many notable achievements including "Salter’s Duck" and his pioneering work in the desalination of sea water. He will receive the silver medal at the Academy’s AGM in London on 16 July.

Professor Salter, a world leader in the fields of renewable energy and geoengineering at the University of Edinburgh, has spent the last 37 years developing innovative and practical ways of mitigating the impact of climate change. His highly innovative research has resulted in very significant technology transfer through the spin-out of three companies, including Pelamis Wave Power and Artemis Intelligent Power.

His most famous invention is the iconic ‘Salter’s Duck’, developed in the 1970s to generate electrical power from waves, and still regarded as one of the most efficient wave power designs. At the heart of the ‘Duck’ was an innovative digital displacement hydraulic power transmission that Professor Salter has since adapted for automotive use. It is currently undergoing vehicle testing and achieving fuel savings of 30%.

A pioneer in the field of geoengineering, Professor Salter has investigated the practicalities of brightening clouds to reflect sunlight away from the earth. Rather than cloud-seeding with low-flying aircraft, Professor Salter envisaged using a flotilla of radio-controlled Flettner craft (using a vertical rotating cylinder for propulsion) and spraying the clouds with sea water as a low carbon alternative. As the water evaporated from the ultra-fine spray, the remaining grains of salt would provide the nuclei for cloud condensation.

Trials of the cloud brightening system prompted a further researchproject on irrigating coastal areas using horizontally mounted windturbines affixed to offshore platforms. These would pump sea water through the interior of the rotor blades generating a mist. As the water droplets evaporated the salt would drop out and an on-shore wind would carry the moisture inland to fall as rain. It was estimated thismethod of irrigation could be 1000 times cheaper than using conventional desalination and irrigation.

Nominating Professor Salter for the award, his colleague Professor Peter Grant OBE FREng said “Stephen Salter is a true pioneer, often well ahead of the game – he was investigating touch screens back in 1969 and smart meters in 1977. I am enormously impressed by the scale and the originality of his commitment to working out the best engineering route to making the concept in question a reality.

The Sustained Achievement Award

Awarded to an engineer normally resident in the UK whose achievements have had a profound impact upon their engineering discipline, the Sustained Achievement Award applies particularly to those engineers who have not been recognised earlier in their careers for reasons such as latency in the impact of their work or late disclosure due to national or commercial secrecy.

The Royal Academy of Engineering

Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation

Further Information

Professor Stephen Salter
Professor Stephen Salter