Pushing the envelope of technology, the Solar Impulse plane completed an all-night flight as the aircraft paves the way for the first around the world solar powered flight.
Still in its infancy, solar powered transportation represents one of the most revolutionary concepts in the world today. As demonstrated by the Solar Impulse project, the replacement of combustion engines with clean electric motors powered by solar energy has the potential to eliminate one of the largest sources of manmade pollution.
Solar Impulse has addressed one of the longstanding challenges of solar power: dealing with darkness. To deal with the inevitable interruption of its energy source, the airplane was required to generate sufficient electricity to charge batteries during the day for nighttime operation while maintaining flight all day. Engineers overcame technological hurdles such as solar cell efficiency, battery weight, and motor efficiency to create a highly efficient design that proved capable of operating the plane non-stop for longer than 26 hours.
Billed as more of a political achievement than technological by the Solar Impulse team, the nighttime solar powered flight gives credibility to scientists who argue that renewable energy has a potent role in the future global landscape. Bertrand Piccard, a member of the team, talked about how failure in the nighttime flight could have setback the cause of alternative energy in the political sector
One of the most high profile exercises in solar development, the Solar Impulse project aims to promote the development of solar technology and the political issues it addresses. Aiming to fly non-stop around the world, Solar Impulse hopes to change the course of humanity as it sets new historical records. With the first nighttime solar powered flight under its belt, a trans-Atlantic flight comes one step closer. Solar Impulse expects completion of the development of a long distance plane ready in time for a 2011 crossing. Upon completion of that milestone, the group hopes to have a new version of its aircraft available which it will use to circle the globe in the year 2013.
Fifty specialists from six countries work on the Solar Impulse project from its bases in Dübendorf and Lausanne, Switzerland.
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"Solar Impulse completes first night flight ." Composites World. July 12, 2010. http://www.compositesworld.com/news/solar-impulse-completes-first-night-flight (accessed July 13, 2010).