Solar energy, radiant light and heat from sun, is connected using range of ever-evolving technologies like solar heating, solar thermal electricity, solar photovoltaic’s, solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis.
Solar technologies are normally classified as either passive solar or active solar depending on way they capture, convert and distribute solar energy. Active solar techniques comprise use of photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors to harness energy. Passive solar techniques comprise orienting the building to Sun, choosing materials with good thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and creating spaces which obviously circulate air.
Dream of flying around world on solar power got a step up as Switzerland revealed futuristic solar-powered flying machine. Pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard disclosed futuristic flying machine in ceremony in the city of Payerne.
We are one step closer to dream of flying around world on solar power, Piccard said. When Solar Impulse was born twelve years ago, and we could illustrate the huge wings and light weight of its structure on computer designs. "Today, this airplane presents. It's the most unbelievable airplane of its time. It can fly with no fuel, day and night, and we expect that we can make it go around the world," Piccard said.
Last year, Borschberg and Piccard flew first-generation prototype of Solar Impulse plane on record-setting coast-to-coast flight across US. Journey from California to New York took two months, and comprised five planned stops. Solar Impulse ended its cross-country flight in New York City. Solar Impulse planes are first able to fly day and night without any on-board fuel. Ultra-lightweight planes are powered completely by solar panels and batteries, which charge during day to permit the plane to fly even when sun goes down. Solar Impulse II will undergo series of test flights in May, before training flights over switzerland, officials said.
“The Si2 is only airplane in world with unlimited endurance. It can fly for days, weeks, months, continuously. It is the most energy-efficient airplane ever created,” said CEO and co-founder Borschberg. He and Piccard will take rotates in cockpit, which has also received the major design overhaul. For instance, they will be able to lie flat to sleep and relieve themselves via convertible toilet seat.
“It is a improved environment for pilot. If first plane was economy class; this one is business,” said Borschberg. Additionally to increased comfort, Si2 features enhanced energy efficiency. Unlike its predecessor, it will be able to gather and store sufficient energy to fly through clouds.
Thanks to its 17,248 solar cells, that will give energy to aircraft’s four propellers. In additional energy will be gathered and stored in its lithium-polymer batteries. Flight speeds will be diffident, ranging from 36-140 kilometres per hour, relying on time of day and altitude. Described as “airborne technology lab”, plane was developed by dozens of specialists – with Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne serving as project’s scientific advisor. Major challenge was finding very lightweight yet resilient materials.
Thus far adapting plane for commercial use is not on agenda. According to Piccard, main goal besides making it around world is “to show how significant technical innovation is for energy savings and renewable energy”. And as Borschberg indicated, “All technologies utilized on plane can work on ground, and they are already finding uses in homes, appliances and cars to make them more energy resourceful”.
Flight into unknown
“What is new is to be able to fly for long periods, and not knowing what kind of weather to expect few days ahead. We are flying into unknown,” Borschberg said. “Solar Impulse 2 will have nearly limitless autonomy, and now we require ensuring pilot is as sustainable as his aircraft. That is why round-the-world flight will be as much human as technological feat.”
Severe temperatures ranging from -40°C to 40°C will be one challenge, but cockpit is neither pressurised nor heated. Both pilots will be depending on their experience also tools like yoga and meditation in Borschberg’s case, and self-hypnosis in Piccard’s. Asked what his biggest concern was, Piccard said, “When you act something for first time you do not even know what to concern about. Nobody is done it before, so you have to discover solutions from scratch. This makes it exciting, but it is also quite terrifying.”
Round-the-world flight is planned to start in March 2015, and pilots will take turns flying five-day, non-stop shifts. They will start in Gulf area and fly over Arabian Sea, India, Myanmar, China, the Pacific Ocean, the US, Atlantic and either southern Europe or northern Africa before returning to departure point. New Swiss solar plane poised to circle the globe.