Amprius’ Silicon Nanowire Batteries Fly – For 25 Days

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

Sunnyvale, California-based Amprius kept a low profile for several years, despite its founder, Yi Cui, being a leading light in battery development.  Their December 4th press release, though, finds the company to be in a more open mood, their advanced lithium-ion cells with 100-percent silicon anodes having flown Airbus’ Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) for over 25 days, “setting a new endurance and altitude record for stratospheric flight.” This milestone represents a great leap forward since Alan Cocconi flew his So Long solar-powered model for 48 hours, the first of many projects of which he would be an integral part, and the first solar airplane to fly overnight.  He worked on the General Motors EV1 and Eric Raymond’s Sunseeker …

Ironing Out Cheap Molecules for Solar Panels

Dean Sigler Hydrogen Fuel, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Making a Designer Iron Molecule To make more affordable solar cells, researchers at Sweden’s Lund University are not just trying to be cheap, they are avoiding tightening markets in expensive noble metals like ruthenium, osmium and iridium. A more common metal such as iron, constituting six percent of the earth’s crust, might just be the answer to several issues. One problem keeps it from being a great solar cell component. Iron just doesn’t take a shine to solar radiation. In the careful words of the abstract for the research team’s paper, iron’s shortcoming is exposed. “However, the photoexcitable charge-transfer (CT) states of most Fe complexes are limited by picosecond or sub-picosecond deactivation through low-lying metal centered (MC) states, resulting in …

EMBATT and the FAB Four

Dean Sigler Batteries, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

No, it’s not the discovery of an unknown Richard Lester film*, but the impending prototype manufacturing collaboration for a battery that promises 450 Watt-hours per liter. Four heavy-hitters in German industry plan on making (fabricating) the flat-panel EMBATT battery into a reality – with all speed. thyssenkrupp System Engineering GmbH, IAV GmbH, Daimler AG, and Fraunhofer IKTS (Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems) have teamed up for the “EMBATT-goes-FAB” project sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. thyssenkrupp specializes in planning, designing and implementing production lines for cylindrical, pouch, and prismatic batteries, and will apply that expertise to the new format. IAV provides engineering and consulting services to auto makers worldwide, and has a depth of knowledge …

Volocopters to Fly Doctors

Dean Sigler Announcements, Electric Powerplants, Sky Taxis Leave a Comment

Helena Treeck of Volocopter alerted your editor of an exciting development for the multicopter manufacturer.  ADAC Luftrettung (ADAC Air Rescue) wants to use volocopter’s capabilities to take doctors or other qualified medical personnel to points of need – and rapidly.  ADAC’s slogan, “Against time and for life,” sums their mission, and Volocopters seem apt choices to help fulfill it. Rotary-wing aircraft have a well-established reputation for rescues in treacherous locales and circumstances.  An outstanding job of flying earlier this year on Mt. Hood, Oregon highlights this. Electric vertical take off and landing craft may be even better at this than fossil-fuel powered ones.  They don’t run out of oxygen at altitude – the rescue on Mt. Hood took place near …

David Ullman Receives Patent on IDEAL Airplane

Dean Sigler Announcements, Electric Powerplants, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

David Ullman a Professor Emeritus at Oregon State University, has used his expertise in mechanical engineering to design his IDEAL airplane.  That stands for Integrated Distributed Electric-Augmented Lift, and like all good projects with good acronyms, almost explains itself.  Recently, the U. S Patent office thought the IDEAL is worthy of being patented. It might be helpful to read the full patent, filed with working partner and neighbor Vincent Homer, because the ideal looks simple, but has years of development behind it.  The two live in Independence, Oregon, on an airport that includes hangars on every house and taxiways linking them to the main runway.  Both their hangars are filled with evidence of their skilled handiwork.  Vincent’s houses giant models …

MIT’s Ionic Flyer – Solid State All the Way

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

This week, a kerfuffle tsunami has swept through the aeronautical press, with the announcement by Steven Barret of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that he has flown an ion-powered airplane that “doesn’t depend on fossil fuels or batteries.”*  (A minor point – the airplane does have a battery that gets its output voltage ramped up by a custom power supply.) Five years ago, your editor reported on ionic thrusters, several of which were being tested by Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. These little devices have great promise for moving vehicles in space, where the vacuum presents no aerodynamic drag to overcome. Even a small nudge from a thruster in space will cause a vehicle to accelerate. They …

Aurora’s Odysseus – Large Enough for Its Mythic Name

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Materials, Electric Powerplants, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Named for a mythical hero like its evolutionary predecessors, Aurora Flight Science’s Odysseus is a huge, but ephemeral thing. A wingspan larger than the largest 747’s and a weight no greater than a Smart Car’s (around 1,500 pounds) means this airplane will be slow and frail.  A carbon fiber tube structure covered by lightweight Tedlar™ resembles the construction of Solar Impulse, but without the bulk of carrying a pilot. Since its antecedent was the world record holding distance champion in human-powered aircraft, the manner of flight is no surprise.  Its intended altitude is.  Odysseus takes it to the stratosphere. It’s the latest revelation in a thirty-year exploration of low-powered, extreme-endurance aircraft.  Before he founded Aurora, John Langford led a group of …

Rice Defeats Dendrites

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Materials, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Dr. James Tour of Rice University makes news regularly with different ways of making better batteries.  His latest, a thin-film coating of carbon nanotubes, will enable lithium metal batteries to potentially achieve their full potential. According to the Tour Laboratory, that potential is worth considering.  “Lithium metal charges much faster and holds about 10 times more energy by volume than the lithium-ion electrodes found in just about every electronic device, including cellphones and electric cars.”  This promise is offset by problems with dendrite growth, the intrusion of tooth-like projections from the surface of the anode metal.  If these growths expand far enough, they poke through the battery’s electrolyte and severely limit battery life.  Worst of all, if the dendrites reach …

Fred To Receives a Well-Deserved Award

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Fred To (pronounced Toe) lives in England and was one of a small group who built and flew the world’s first solar-powered airplane in December 1978. They flew just a few months before Larry Mauro lofted his solar-riser in April 1979. Both airplanes were limited by the technology of the day, lithium-ion batteries still over a decade away, and the best solar cells achieving less than five-percent efficiency. Fred wrote to tell your editor of the award. “I was in Montreux Switzerland a few weeks ago, and on the 22nd of October I received an award from prince Albert II of Monaco for Solar One, which is now formally accepted as the first solar powered aircraft to fly. It was …

The Diamond/Siemens Hybrid Test Bed

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

One should follow Dr. Frank Anton’s Twitter account – or at least check it occasionally.  Dr. Anton is head of Siemen’s Electric Aviation Division and posts new developments regularly.  Siemens is supplying motors to Diamond Aircraft’s prototype hybrid, a tidy tri-motor if you count the engine/generator in the nose of the formerly single-engine airplane. Partnered with Austria’s Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH, Siemens motors powered an adaptation of their DA40 four-seat airplane.  A Diesel engine/generator in the nose of the formerly single-engine machine charges two 12-kilowatt batteries behind the passenger compartment and provides power to the two Siemens motors on the canard.  The whole thing looks a bit like a large economy-size Cri-Cri. Started in 2013, the project is under the …