Solar in Flight

A very exciting adventure is to be embarked by Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard which is scheduled to take place in March 2015. Piccard- who is known for being the first man to circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloon is attempting to do the same but without any source of fuel; he will use the power of the sun!

This will be done using a plane that weighs just 2.3 tonnes (approximately the same as a large car), the wings and horizontal tail plane have 17,248 monocrystalline silicon cells fixed to them which provides 22.7% efficiency and performance.

‘The solar impulse (or Si2) wasn’t made to carry passengers but messages’ Piccard said ‘Our world needs to find a way of improving life, renewable energy is part of the solution.’

Don’t be deceived solar flight isn’t something of the new it has been around for the past 40 years, but not in the way Piccard and Borschberg are attempting. Trying to stay in flight when the sun has gone down, by using batteries to store the sun power is something that has not been experimented before. The lithium-polymer batteries which were developed with the assistance of Solvay are able to store 164,580 watt hours of power, this is how the night flight challenge can take place.

The flight is expected to take 4-5 months to complete with 20-25 days flying in total. The Solar Impulse will fly continuously for 5 days and nights, obviously using no fuel and having only one pilot. Both pilots have had vigorous training for this challenging flight- especially sleep training as they will only be able to have 20 minute spurt sleeps over seas and oceans, to sleep over land would be far too dangerous.

They will take a long route over Abu Dhabi, Japan and the US, then over Europe before landing again in Abu Dhabi hopefully sometime in July. Piccard said ‘the Si2 is like a flying laboratory’, meaning it will demonstrate how efficient Solar power really is and also teach them much more for the next mission.

Will the Si2 get around the world with no fuel? If so what will the future look like for solar flight?

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