Laura Carrabine, Senior Editor
The Solar Impulse aircraft, which is powered only by solar energy, completed its first night flight. The ultralight aircraft was airborne from 7:00 am on July 7, 2010 to 9:00 am July 8, 2010 before landing in Switzerland. It is the first manned vehicle capable of flying day and night without fuel.
The Solar Impulse aircraft, which is powered only by solar energy completed its first night flight. The ultra-light craft was airborne for 26 hours before landing at Payerne airbase in Switzerland. It is the first manned aircraft capable of flying day and night without fuel and powered entirely by solar energy.
Bayer MaterialScience is supporting the Swiss-based Solar Impulse SA with technical expertise, high-tech polymer materials, and energy-saving lightweight products. Among the materials incorporated in the craft on its successful inaugural flight was a lightweight polyurethane foam from Puren GmbH. It is based on raw materials from the Leverkusen Company and is used in the cockpit cladding, the engine cowling, and the wings. Products from Bayer MaterialScience also feature in the cockpit windows which consist of thin but strong Makrofol polycarbonate film.
The next solar-powered aircraft will contain a greater proportion of Bayer products. The company is working on the development of further ultra-light materials. Baytubes carbon nanotubes (CNTs) could improve the strength of structural components while keeping their weight to a minimum. In 2013, a second prototype is scheduled to fly around the world in five stages, each lasting five days, traveling at an average speed of 70 km/hr.