Game for all seasons: The model football stadium setting Qatar up for 2022

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Qatar has commissioned the development of a carbon-neutral ‘model stadium’ ahead of its planned hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. We look at how it is being used to develop football-friendly climate tech.


Qatar’s position as hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup may be criticised, but the fact remains that the country’s preparations for the event have already begun.

An important aspect of this is showing that Qatar – a country that sees regular summer temperatures of 41°C (106°F) – can provide adequate facilities for football to be played safely. To demonstrate this, the country engaged the services of Arup Associates, an architectural and engineering practice with a global reputation for innovative, future-focused structures.

The result was a ‘model stadium’: a 500-seater, zero-carbon mini stadium named Qatar Showcase, which Arup Associates describes as “proof-of-concept for innovative cooling and climate control technologies.”

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It’s a valuable achievement not only for a possible world cup, but also for the wider region, which is seeing growth in the popularity of football.

Technologies within the structure create a controlled microclimate to make football possible in any weather, and also generate power to remove reliance on externally-produced energy.

Now they have been proved, the technologies can be replicated on a larger scale, ultimately finding their way into full-scale stadiums.

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Sun-tracking revolving stadium roof

Qatar Showcase’s roof canopy is the most striking aspect of its design, but its ability to revolve also provides significant climate benefits by letting the stadium be tailored to current temperatures and wind levels.

In the heat of the summer, the roof can be moved to follow the sun’s rays, always ensuring that the pitch and stands are protected from excess heat and sunlight.  If the weather is particularly hot, the canopy can be closed in advance to cool the stadium ready for the match.

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If a game is being played on a summer evening – when it is cooler and more tolerable to play – the roof can also be opened to show the star-speckled sky above the pitch.

In many parts of the year, however, the weather is ideal for football, and cutting the players off from it would be a waste. Instead the canopy can also be positioned to let the sun in, ensuring a pleasant playing environment all year round.

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Solar farm for zero-carbon football

Next to Qatar Showcase is a solar farm of photovoltaic panels, which can be operated all year round.

Whenever the stadium is empty, the panels are set up to export energy back to the national grid, but on a match day requirements will exceed their output, so additional power will be drawn from the grid and from biofuel-powered generators.

Each year this results in more energy being put into the national grid than is taken out, a neat solution that makes the facility zero carbon for its electricity needs.

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Using the sun to cool the stadium

Somewhat incredibly, the sun’s heat can also be used to cool the stadium down.

Next to the solar panels are solar heat collectors, which are fitted with motorised sun-tracking mirrors.

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These reflect into collecting tubes containing hot water, heating it to 200°C and passing it through machines known as absorption chillers to turn it into cooling water, which is stored for circulation using air-handling units during games.

While this sounds like a bizarre, somewhat futuristic technology, industrial cooling systems have being using this method for a century, proving that reappropriation of technology can be just as effective as invention.


Images courtesy of Arup Associates.


Meniscus-regenerating 3D printed implant could be answer to common sports injury

A new technique to regenerate damaged or torn cartilage in the knee using a 3D printed implant could prove to be the first fully effective treatment for the condition ever developed.

Designed to repair damage to the meniscus, the crescent-shaped fibrocartilage that sits between the knee joints to reduce bone friction, the 3D printed implant has already been tested successfully in sheep, and researchers have high hopes for its potential in humans.

Tearing or damage to the meniscus is one of the most common sports injuries, particularly in team games such as football and basketball, with around a million meniscus surgeries performed in the US each year.

In the English Premier League, 12% of all injuries in the 2004/5 season were to the meniscus, and severe damage can spell an early end to a player’s career. Dutch international Marcel van Basten and English international Micheal Owen, for example, both saw their remarkable careers cut short by knee injuries.

While some mild meniscus injuries can be repaired – Uraguayan international Luis Suarez had keyhole surgery to repair his meniscus damage, for example – a severe tear is currently near impossible to fully reverse.

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“At present, there’s little that orthopaedists can do to regenerate a torn knee meniscus,” said Dr Jeremy Mao, who is leading the study at Columbia University Medical Center.

“Some small tears can be sewn back in place, but larger tears have to be surgically removed. While removal helps reduce pain and swelling, it leaves the knee without the natural shock absorber between the femur and tibia, which greatly increases the risk of arthritis.”

In some cases a meniscal transplant can be performed using donor tissue, but the procedure is high-risk and has a low rate of success.

The new technique involves infusing a personalised 3D printed implant with human growth factors that encourage the body to regenerate the meniscus on its own.

In order to create an accurate 3D printed copy of the patient’s meniscus, the scientists would create a 3D model from MRI scans, resulting in a replica that is accurate to 10 microns.

The implant, which is made of a biodegradable polymer known as polycaprolactone, is laced with specific recombinant human proteins that encourage tissue regeneration: connective growth factor and transforming growth factor β3.

By releasing these in specific areas of the implant, the scientists found that they were able to attract the body’s stem cells and form new meniscal tissue.

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“This is a departure from classic tissue engineering, in which stems cells are harvested from the body, manipulated in the laboratory, and then returned to the patient–an approach that has met with limited success,” explained Mao.

“In contrast, we’re jumpstarting the process within the body, using factors that promote endogenous stem cells for tissue regeneration.”

The research is in the early stages, and will require further long-term study before it can be tested in humans, but is a promising sign for those affected by knee injuries.

“This research, although preliminary, demonstrates the potential for an innovative approach to meniscus regeneration,” said Dr Scott Rodeo, study co-author, sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon and researcher at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

“This would potentially be applicable to the many patients who undergo meniscus removal each year.”


Featured image courtesy of calciocatania. Second inline image courtesy of Jon Candy.