A second group of materials includes highly transparent polycarbonate films in the cabin window. These are made of two sheets of Makrofol DE 1-1 polycarbonate film separated by a cushion of air. Other Bayer materials include films for covering structures, wing-covering fabric, and high-performance adhesive and coating materials in the cabin.
"Solar Impulse selected these materials because of their light-weighting capabilities," Rothe wrote. "For example, the polyurethane foam combines design freedom to form the faring and other complex components, as well as high insulation values at a very low density. Polyurethane parts were used where insulation is needed on the plane: cockpit cladding, motor cowling, and wing tips."
The HI-SIB will use the same materials groups: polyurethane foam, polycarbonate, and film and coatings. These will be further optimized, since the second plane needs to be even lighter. The cockpit's insulating foam materials (which also must deliver higher performance) are based on Baytherm Microcell and being co-developed with Solvay. "The material is better due to newly developed formulations, which allow for a significantly lower cell size," Rothe wrote. "These smaller cells make the polyurethane insulation properties even better and the density stays at a very low level. So the total weight should be lower." Another new development is a polyurethane resin for the carbon fiber composite.
For the HI-SIB, Bayer is providing and designing materials and structures. For example, it is handling the design of the cockpit shell. The windshield's sandwich structure will be similar to the HI-SIA's, but Bayer developed a new material that will reduce the likelihood of clouding from water condensation.
The second plane's coatings for all the exterior parts, especially the parts where no solar cells are located, are vital. They are extremely lightweight, allowing optimum protection for the films or textiles underneath. The coatings' "material properties will be the same, but no solvents will be used, which means the material is more ecologically friendly."
@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:
Excellent post Ann and the video was terrific. One of my favorite people in history is George Bernard Shaw. He said the following: You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?" One of the reasons folks like us got into engineering was to ask WHY NOT! I fear all too frequently our so-called leaders stop asking why not. We (seemingly) have become a nation without a national goal. At one time, the exploration of space was our vision. Now we seem to be content allowing the politicians to line their pockets while appeasing their "base". Getting reelected is all they strive for.
Glad you liked it, bobj, and thanks for the Shaw quote--he was an early hero of mine, too. That whole "why not?" spirit is what's been so exciting about Silicon Valley (my home "town) and these days, about alternative energy sources, in my opinion. Figuring out how to go to the Moon is often cited as an expression of the daring and ability of the human spirit. I think this airplane--and a few other feats of what looked like impossible technology--can be seen in the same light.
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.