Soaring on nothing but the sun’s power

Soaring on nothing but the sun’s power

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The Solar Impulse 2 (SI2) — the first solar-powered plane to go around the world — landed in India in Ahmedabad on March 11, 2015 and later in Varanasi. The two Indian halts are intrinsically connected to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is looking to create 100 GW of solar power capacity in India by 2022. A 35,000-kilometre journey with the purpose of spreading the message of clean technology began its journey in Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015 and was piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg of Switzerland.

Over its 25-day journey around the globe, the plane will make stopovers in Myanmar, China, India and the US and will return back to Abu Dhabi. It will then fly over the Pacific Ocean, across the United States and Southern Europe, making a total of 12 stopovers before returning to Abu Dhabi by late July. Following the first version of the aircraft, which came out in 2009, the SI2 is fuel-free and is powered by over 17,000 solar cells on its wings that recharge its batteries and enable it to fly. The single-seater aircraft weighs 2,300 kg and will travel at speeds of 50 kmph to 100 kmph. Designed and constructed over the past 13 years, the Solar Impulse 2 is grabbing eyeballs as it renews hope for clean and renewable energy. The Si2 plane is a collaboration between ABB and Switzerland’s solar-powered aircraft project Solar Impulse. Solar Impulse 2, is constructed of carbon fiber and its 72-meter wingspan is wide as the largest passenger airline and has two massive lithium batteries that are recharged during the day, “which allow the aircraft to fly at night and therefore to have virtually unlimited autonomy.” Its maximum altitude is 27,000 feet and its top speed is around 87 miles per hour. The plane is ultralight, largely due to specialty plastics from Bayer Material Science. The company provided insulating material for the second aircraft as well. Other materials and solutions from Bayer Material Science like plastic polycarbonate or polyurethane foam were also used.