100-Percent Solar Plane Flies High on Advanced Materials
The world's first 100-percent solar-powered fixed-wing airplane, the Solar Impulse HI-SIA, takes off from California's Moffett Field on the first leg of its cross-country flight this summer. (Source: Solar Impulse)
@Ann, thanks for informative post. Cost of flight reaching all time highs due to a various factors like fossil fuels costs, cuts in government subsidies. There is a need for alternatives energy resource. Solar energy is potential solutions to cut costs.
I really like this idea of a solar plane, thanks for this coverage, Ann. I am impressed at how the use of lighter, advanced materials makes this type of flight possible. Using alternative fuels for airplane travel is really good, but solar power, in my opinion, would be even better.
Elizabeth, I also was happy to see the lighter alternative materials being used. And I agree that solar power would be ideal for just about everything, if it were feasible in each case. Advances like this one show us that a lot is possible when you combine brains, talent, funding, expertise and willpower.
AnandY, that type of design detail may be available on the Solar Impulse website. I find it interesting that another solar-powered airplane, the prototype Electric High Altitude Solar-Powered Aircraft (ELHASPA), which we describe here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&itc=dn_analysis_element&doc_id=264353&image_number=11 also has very long, thin wings, which are typical of aircraft designed to glide.
Ann, that was my first thought, when I read the title of your article: that the plane would be built like a glider. Especially with these preliminary designs - that only makes sense...not only for general power consumption given the general inefficiency of solar power, but if there is not enough power, the plane can still safely fly...and land!
Nancy, I had that thought, too, even before I saw the photos. One reason is because of the background info I read for the story of the perpetual-flight plane:
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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