The Swiss-built Solar Impulse airplane is about to enter the darkness today, already several hours into what is slated to become its first all-night flight.
Pilot (and CEO) André Borschberg has been gradually climbing to an altitude of about 27,000 feet, with the plane's 10,748 solar panels soaking up the sun's rays and charging the aircraft's batteries. As darkness falls over Europe, Borschberg will slowly descend to about 5,000 feet, essentially using the plane as a glider before reverting to battery power.
Considering the massive carbon emissions that come from burning jet fuel, air travel is in serious need of a green makeover. To that end, the folks over at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, have been working on a solar-powered plane since 2003. Now, after six years of testing, they have finally managed to get the plane off the ground.
The Solar Impulse is the prototype of a fuel-free aircraft that is designed to circle the globe on sunlight alone.
Solar Impulse/Stephane Gros
As environmental concerns increasingly shape the direction of technology, the future of aviation is no exception: scientists have been looking to replace fuel-guzzling aircraft with solar-powered variants, an innovation that, in addition to passing the green test, would also enable planes to linger in the sky for longer.
2009 promises to be a big one for all things science and tech-related. From the LHC's big comeback to SciFi blockbuster sequels, you heard it here first. We bring you "The Future Now," and we don't mess around.
Read more of Popular Science'spredictions for 2009.
Popular Science took its first extensive look at a gasoline-electric
automobile in 1916.
By Bob SilleryPosted 02.26.2002 at 6:20 pm 0 Comments
Hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles began appearing late in the 19th century
from manufacturers such as the Compagnie Parisienne des Voitures Electriques
in France. In this country, an engineer named H. Piper applied for a patent
on a gasoline-electric motor combination on Nov. 23, 1905. By the time Piper
received his patent three years later, however, advances in gasoline engines
had begun to eclipse the performance of his and other hybrids. Among other