On a side note, I'm wondering if we can do better than solar technology as we know it today. Solar cells still require rare earth metals, but a biological energy conversion device without that requirement would go a long way to make us independent of costly, limited resources and a whole lot greener.
Reshared post from +EuroTech
Solar Impulse: First Intercontinental Solar-Powered flight!
by , ; Germany
Solar Impulse, the Swiss prototype lightweight airplane powered only by solar energy, takes on the first intercontinental solar-powered flight from Madrid, Spain to Rabat, Morocco.
In 2003, the first feasibility studies indicated that a solar-powered aircraft may be possible – and the Solar Impulse project was born. The project’s goals are:
1. Flying around the world in an airplane powered by solar energy alone
2. Being able to store enough energy for night flight during the day
3. Building an ultra-lightweight aircraft whose wings are covered in solar panels
4. Demonstrating energy savings and environmental protection with modern technology
5. Discovering a new relationship between pilot and plane.
The aircraft, dubbed HB-SIA, is 22m long and has a wingspan of 63.4m – about the size of an Airbus A340, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. It weighs in at a mere 1.6 tonnes, thanks to significant improvements in ultra-light material research – in comparison, the Airbus A340 weighs 271 tonnes. The plane is powered by four electric motors with maximal output of 7.4 kW (10 HP). The motors, in turn, are powered by 12,000 silicon solar cells located on the plane’s carriage.
The current flight to Rabat is the last planned dress rehearsal before their attempt at flying around the world in 2014. Last Thursday, Solar Impulse took off from Payerne, headed to Madrid for a three-day technical stopover before continuing on to its final destination, Rabat, Morocco. The first leg from Payerne to Madrid already brought a few weather challenges in order to accommodate the prototype: a summer storm blocked the way, and the team had to reroute. After being delayed in Madrid due to unfavorable weather conditions, Solar Impulse is finally leaving Europe.
Pilot: Bertrand Piccard
Planned flying time: Departed 5:22 CET (GMT+2), arriving 23:00 BDT (GMT+1).
Route: Departing from Madrid, flying over Toledo, Seville, Strait of Gibraltar, Mediterranean Sea, and following the Moroccan coast until landing at Rabat-Salé airport.
Solar Impulse’s second aircraft, HB-SIB, has already undergone the first virtual flights and is scheduled for completion in 2013. This sister aircraft will include a pressurized cockpit, supplemental oxygen and more advanced avionics, allowing it to fly across the ocean, and achieve the project vision of circumnavigating the world. It’s planned wingspan is 80.0m.
Watch Solar Impulse’s flight progress from their live virtual cockpit: http://live.solarimpulse.com/
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