If you see something in the sky tomorrow, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably just the Solar Impulse — a.k.a. the SI2 — a single-seat aircraft built from carbon fiber and running exclusively on the sun.
Powered by 17,248 solar cells that charge its four lithium polymer batteries by day, so that it can continue to fly by night, this 5,070 pound plane — the largest and lightest of its kind, thanks to a 236-foot wingspan, which is longer than that of a Boeing 747 — is set to travel from Abu Dhabi to Abu Dhabi, or 21,748 miles, in 25 days over the course of 5 months.
It took flight on March 9th and plans on making a limited number of stops, flying for up to five days in a row in an effort to showcase the power and practicality of clean technology.
Such lofty goals, however, weren’t made without some intense research — over 12 years of study, conception, design and construction applied, involving over 50 engineers and technicians — and assistance from a one-of-a-kind composite.
“140 carbon-fiber ribs spaced at 50 cm intervals give the wing its aerodynamic cross-section, and also maintain its rigidity.”
Carbon fiber’s importance was evidently worth its weight in radiance.
“Every gram added had to be deducted somewhere else, to make room for enough batteries on board, and provide a cockpit in which a pilot can live for a week. In the end, it is of the weight of a small van: 2’300kg! (5070 lbs).”
Currently it just reached Hawaii from Japan, a record-breaking solar flight after a non-stop flight of 5 days and nights.
All the while, at each and every stop, the Solar Impulse Team plan on organizing and occupying a series of events for governments, schools and universities to show off their awe-inspiring aircraft and promulgate the importance and obvious incentives of using solar energy.
Our only hope is that, somehow, they catch wind of CFG and give us a shout-out. (Though we’d be happy enough just knowing that they gave our good friend carbon fiber plenty of time to shine in the spotlight.)