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It sounds like a science fiction movie, but isn’t. Solar Impulse 2 is now ready to take off on a 35,000 km trip around the world without using any fossil fuels.
The plane, with 72 metre wings covered in 17,248 solar cells, is able to fly night and day, with four electric engines running on the solar energy captured by its solar panels and stored in lithium batteries.
Solar Impulse will take off from Abu Dhabi, where the plane is currently waiting for better weather conditions before starting the journey. After take-off, stops are planned in India, Myanmar and China, before crossing the Pacific Ocean and flying over the USA and Europe, to complete its journey back at the starting point.
During the five month journey, two pilots, André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard will alternate at the cockpit controls. They will be helped from the ground by a crew of 80 technicians, engineers and a communications team.
André Borschberg, Co-founder and CEO and Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and Chairman are standing in front of Solar Impulse 2 Copyright: Jean Revillard/Rezo.ch
The state of the art of research & innovation
Solar impulse is both a human and technological challenge. With no fuel on board, researchers and engineers needed to develop resource efficient and light materials that could ensure with success of the round-the-world trip.
The single-seater plane, weighing 2, 300 kg, recharges the 640 kg lithium batteries during the day. This allows the aircraft to fly at night making it “the first solar plane capable of crossing oceans”.
But Solar Impulse is more than a solar energy plane: the different technologies and materials developed during the plane’s construction are ready to be exported to other areas such as mobility or housing and will help shape sustainability in the future.
A strong commitment by Solvay
“Solar impulse has been since the beginning a very ambitious project”, explained Claude Michel, Head of the Solvay Solar Impulse Partnership. He still remembers when “ten years ago Solvay decided to become the first partner to support the project of Bertrand Piccard without having many details on the technologies needed”.
Since then, Solvay has contributed with pioneering technologies that have resulted in 13 products being used in 25 applications and 6,000 parts.
Claude Michel explained that two particular types of technologies developed by Solvay for the Solar are “solar energy capture and storage” for propulsion purposes and “material weight reduction” for both the structure and the assembly parts.
Learn more about the Solar impulse please check Solvay´s website.