Grove, Oxfordshire - A Formula One racing team is employing technology that helps racing drivers survive high speed crashes to create a new device that keeps newborn babies safe during emergency transportation.
The device, known as the Babypod 20, is made from carbon fibre - the same material used in Formula One cars' bodywork. It can withstand a 20 g-force impact and provides newborns with a secure, temperature-controlled environment for ambulance transportation.
It was designed and built by Williams Advanced Engineering, an arm of the UK-based Williams F1 team, in collaboration with healthcare firm Advanced Healthcare Technology.
Williams Advanced Engineering technical director Paul McNamara explained: "This challenge of providing a lightweight, strong pod to put infants in to be moved around is absolutely the same challenge, virtually, as we're trying to tackle in the main chassis of a Formula One car - we need it to be strong, light, and crash-proof."
Williams says it expects to make around 500 of the pods in the first year of production.
Typically, providing emergency transport to newborn children requires the use of large incubators, which require a power supply and specialist vehicles. The pods are now being used by the UK's Children's Acute Transport Service. Operational manager Eithne Polke said the design had "made a big difference to our transportation processes".
F1 teams frequently put their engineering know-how to use outside the sport. Williams' rival McLaren has applied data management and race simulation expertise to help London's Heathrow airport improve movements on the ground and reduce the time spent by planes circling overhead.
And Williams previously developed a device to save money and energy by using aerodynamic technology developed through racing to keep more cold air inside open-fronted refrigerators.