Dr. Santer's comparison of what would happen if only natural forces were acting, as opposed to what human interaction with climate has caused

Is It Hot in Here – Or Is It Just Dr. Santer?

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Dr. Benjamin Santer is a renowned climate scientist, leading the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when it won the Nobel Peace Prize (along with former Vice President Al Gore) “”for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”  The IPCC clarified the award by explaining, “The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC.” Even though he fought through the idea that mankind was adding to the warming trend over the last 100 years*, and risked his career at several points along the way, overall, scientists worldwide have come …

Solar Impulse 2 Batteries – Better than We Thought

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation, Solar Power, Batteries Leave a Comment

What happened to Solar Impulse 2’s batteries on those long five days and nights over the Pacific?  It took months of enforced downtime in Hawaii to have new batteries made, sent from Korea, installed, tested, and flown again.  Could the plane have completed the flight on the original batteries? Kokam, manufacturer of the airplane’s cells, has released new information that provides details of the drive system and relieves a few lingering anxieties.  An over-riding concern was that batteries overheated on the Japan to Hawaii part of the mission, topping out at 50 degrees Centigrade (122 degrees Fahrenheit) – above their design temperature.  Your editor has thought deeply about what Andre’ Borschberg must have gone through every day of the five …

Battery energy density in chart by J. R. Straubel

2X Battery Going Commercial?

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation, Batteries Leave a Comment

We would love to see a 5X or even 10X battery in our future, but that will happen, quite possibly, at the speed of an eight-percent increase per year, as demonstrated for the last several decades of battery development. That would mean waiting for about 10 years for battery energy densities to double.  What if we could double energy density right now, as in starting commercial production of a battery with 2X the energy density of those currently available? Solid Energy Systems, led by MIT alumnus Qichao Hu, has announced it is ready to hit the market in the next year.  According to MIT News, “SolidEnergy plans to bring the batteries to smartphones and wearables in early 2017, and to …

Pilot surrounded by NUS Delta team following successful test flight

Frogworks Unleashes Delta – the World’s Lightest Electric Paraglider Trike

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation, Electric Powerplants, Electric Aircraft Components, Batteries Leave a Comment

Students at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have a history of creating ultra-lightweight flying machines that are also green – floating around on electric power.  Their earlier effort, Snowstorm, a 24-rotor, single-person lifting device, so far has hovered only indoors. Eight engineering students, working within the school’s “Frogworks” program, have escaped into the great outdoors with their Delta, the world’s lightest electric paraglider – according to the school. With two eight-kilowatt electric motors, four 14S lithium polymer battery packs, and tricycle landing gear, the Delta weighs in at 49 kilograms (107.8 pounds) empty weight.  Delta can carry a 75-kilogram (165 pound) pilot.  Cleverly constructed of carbon fiber and aluminum, the craft is claimed to be “the lightest aircraft in …

Even with Batteries, Paul MacCready Was Right

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation, Batteries Leave a Comment

Dr. Paul MacCready repeatedly urged us to do more with less, getting big results from modest use of materials.  That philosophy may be upheld yet once again by researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) Institute of Soft Matter and Functional Materials. As reported here many times, people like Dr. Yi Cui at Stanford University, researchers at MIT, the Fraunhoffer Institute in Germany and many others are attempting to find the magic combination of ingredients that will allow us to transcend the weight penalty we currently trade for payload in heavier-than-desired electric aircraft. Scientists at the HZB, led by  by Prof. Matthias Ballauff have directly observed for the first time a lithium-silicon half-cell during its charging and discharge cycles.  Dr. Beatrix-Kamelia …

Battery 500 Consortium – A Budget Program with Potentially Big Payback

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation, Batteries Leave a Comment

The federal government is creating yet another round of incentives to “spark” development of “significantly smaller, lighter and less expensive batteries.” A consortium of researchers led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will receive up to $10 million a year over five years to perk up battery performance, with the goal of creating a 500 Watt-hour per kilogram battery pack, about three times that of currently available commercial offerings.  The new batteries should be “reliable, safe and less expensive,” according to consortium director and PNNL materials scientist Jun Liu.  Research will come from partners nation-wide, including: Brookhaven National Laboratory Idaho National Laboratory SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Binghamton University (State University of New York) Stanford University University of California, San Diego …


Madagascar Medicine Meets the Green Flight Challenge

Dean Sigler GFC, Sustainable Aviation, Electric Powerplants, Electric Aircraft Components Leave a Comment

In the Small World category, the team leader of the 2011 Green Flight Challenge winning team is designing the next generation of a drone that can carry blood and stool samples from remote and otherwise inaccessible parts of Madagascar to a central laboratory where the samples can be analyzed.  Jack Langelaan, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, is working with Vayu Aircraft to develop a vertical takeoff and landing machine specially crafted to meet the needs of the ValBio Centre. The video shows an early version of the drone, while pictures on Vayu’s web site depict a sleeker, more refined approach.  The functionality for both machines would seem to be identical, but the styling for the projected future …

Screenshot 2016-08-09 22.47.18

Nissan’s SOFC Vehicle – Just in Time for the Olympics

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation, Biofuels, Hydrogen Fuel, Fuel Cells Leave a Comment

Two major types of fuel cells vie for vehicle designers’ attention: PEM, or proton exchange membrane types, and solid oxide fuels cells (SOFCs). PEMs (also known as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells) require an expensive catalyst such as platinum, and hydrogen as fuel. Hydrogen itself is costly to produce and runs up the operating cost for such a fuel cell. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. timed things to coincide with the 2016 Olympics opening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the introduction of their solid oxide fuel cell vehicle, a van that runs on bio-ethanol electric power.  Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn claims this to be a first, with benefits for potential users. “The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for …

solaris transplanting-sunchem

Don’t Smoke ‘Em Even if You’ve Got ‘Em

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation, Diesel Powerplants, Biofuels Leave a Comment

Biofuels would be wonderful if they didn’t starve people while feeding trucks, cars and airplanes.  Living with such a constraint, though, might prove to be productive, profitable, and environmentally sound. The Guardian describes efforts in America’s tobacco country to grow a crop that will be less destructive of human lungs and hearts if it is consumed in jet engines rather than in cigarettes. “’We’re experimenting with varieties that were discarded 50 years ago by traditional tobacco growers because the flavors were poor or the plants didn’t have enough nicotine,’ explains Tyton [BioEnergy Systems] co-founder Peter Majeranowski.” In a case that oddly enough is GMO free, “Researchers are pioneering selective breeding techniques and genetic engineering to increase tobacco’s sugar and seed …

airvolt test stand lin afrc2016-0100-01

NASA Tests Pipistrel Systems To Aid Electric X-plane Program

Dean Sigler GFC, Sustainable Aviation, Electric Powerplants, Electric Aircraft Components, Hybrid Aircraft Leave a Comment

Taja Boscarol of Pipistrel in Slovenia relays the information that NASA has tested Pipistrel’s electric propulsion system as part of its electric flight research for the X-57 program.  It would seem reasonable to start by checking out Pipistrel’s well-tested motor package, one of the few that comes with fully-matched controller, batteries, and ancillary gear. NASA performed its tests on its 13.5-foot Airvolt stand at the Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.  Heavily instrumented, the Airvolt stand collects data through “high-fidelity sensors,” and transmits the collected information to a data acquisition unit that processes, records, and filters the measurements.  NASA and Pipistrel should be able to make good use of this data. Normally installed on the Taurus …