Berkeley Achieves New Highs in Thermophotovoltaic Efficiency

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

Researchers at University of California at Berkeley announced a record in thermophotovoltaic efficiency, now at 29 percent, but with a few tweaks, soon to be at 50 percent.  This is great news for small drones, which could stay up for days, but possibly not a be-all, end-all for larger, more conventional electric aircraft.  Let’s examine the potential and the pitfalls involved. The researchers’ “groundbreaking physical insight” and “novel design” applies thermophotovoltaic principles that are “an ultralight alternative power source.”  Eli Yablonovitch, professor of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), wrote in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ““Thermophotovoltaics are compact and extremely efficient for a wide range of applications, from those that require as …

Pragma Triples Kilometers on Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Bikes

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

Six years ago, we ran a story on hydrogen fuel-cell powered bikes that could travel limited distances, and used canisters of fresh hydrogen to quickly replenish the bike’s energy.   Pragma Industries has introduced a much-improved version of that bike, with range up to 150 kilometers (93 miles).  A pedelec (the motor kicks in when the cyclist pedals), the bike has a unique look and a compact propulsion system.   The system consists of a Brose 36 Volt motor, a 150 Watt PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cell, and 150 Watt-hours of lithium-ion batteries in the bike’s down tube.  Pragma has a large amount of material on its technologies, including a helpful explanation of fuel cells and their operation, and a …

HET: Quadrupling the Flux, Quintupling the Torque

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

Linear Laboratories operates (if you take their video at near face value) out of a barn in Texas and partners with Abtery in Sweden.   The partnership is significant, since Abtery is working on a Swedish regional airliner Elise (“Elektrisk Lufttransport i Sverige” or Electric Aviation in Sweden). The project is funded by the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova. And has multiple partners including Chalmers University.  Their goal is to apply the HET (Hunstable Electric Turbine) technology developed by Linear to real-world uses. Swedish Partners Anders Forslund, researcher at Chalmers in Gothenburg, Sweden, leads the development project Elise.  “We started a little later than they did in other countries but now we’re up and running probably faster than they do. Intensive research is ongoing …

Loganair to Pioneer Island-Hopping Electric Flight

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

An Eccentric Problem It seems quaint and charming, typically British as we used to understand them from vintage films.  The idea of taking a 1.7 mile flight from Westray in the Orkney Islands to Papa Westray within visual range may seem a bit eccentric.  The landing on the beach at low tide seems even more so.  Loganair, which serves the Orkney Islands, experiences many ups and downs in a day, their longest flight taking a mere 15 minutes. Twice-a-day flights between the Westrays can be disrupted by North Sea weather, as can boat passages between the islands, which often take two turbulent hours.  Obligingly, the airline offers flex tickets good for essentially – whenever.  Fares seem reasonable, though, a one-way …

Atea Looks Like a Cessna Overhead

Dean Sigler Hybrid Aircraft, Hydrogen Fuel, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

French company Ascendance Flight Technologies offers a four-seat design that combines hybrid propulsion with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, and then scoots around on conventional wings.  Etea’s technology seems a lot like that of Pipistrel’s 801 or several other eVTOLs. Some Historical Perspective The design team at Ascendance comes from Airbus, and claims to have made the first electric aircraft flight across the English Channel with the E-Fan 2.0.  Your editor offers a few minor inclusions. First, as we reported on October 10, 2009, “Gerard Thevenot, a long-time championship-level hang-glider pilot, celebrated the centennial of Louis Bleriot’s flight across la Manche by flying his hydrogen-powered La Mouette hang glider over roughly the same route Bleriot took between Calais and Dover on …

A L.E.A.P. Forward for Electro.Aero

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

Heady Ambitions Joshua Portlock, Co-founder, Director and Chief Technology Officer for Electro.Aero in Perth, Australia, has a heady set of ambitions.  He and Rob Belaga presented a simple electric vertical takeoff and landing machine, FlyKart, at two different symposia in northern California two years ago, and presented a refined version for the Boeing GoFly competition shortly thereafter.  They’ve made it to the finals of the $2,000,000 contest and will be in the February, 2020 flyoff. In the meantime, he’s started a flight training program using Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro trainer, and is partnering with an almost bewildering  set of industry, government and academic leaders, including Ampaire, Bye Aerospace, E/S/Aero, NASA, Pipistrel, University of Western Australia, and Zero Emissions Vehicles Australia.  Joshua …

Electric Colt Introduced at Oshkosh

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Texas Aircraft hails from its development and production facility at South Texas Regional Airport in Hondo, Texas.  Designed in Brazil, their Colt Light Sport Aircraft is built by American veterans.  Constrained by LSA design criteria, the craft is the high-wing representation of what we have come to expect from the Pipistrel Alpha Trainer, the Vashon Ranger, and others of the type.   It has the almost mandatory Rotax engine, but will soon fly fume-free with a Siemens motor. With the two-seat aircraft already flight tested in Brazil and its American version being built and flown here, the Colt’s introduction at AirVenture included a glimpse of its alternate power plant, a Siemens SP-55D producing 72 kilowatts (96.5 horsepower) AT 3,000 rpm. Matheus …

OXIS Energy, Bye Aerospace Develop Lithium-Sulfur Cells

Dean Sigler Batteries, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Diane Simard, Senior Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors for Bye Aerospace, sends your editor occasional news from that company.  The latest involves a collaboration with OXIS Energy in England to develop new Lithium-Sulfur battery cell technology that shows great, and (even better) near-term promise. Ready to start in September, the project will develop cells that will, ”Achieve the higher energy density required for such aircraft,” referring to Bye’s eFlyer 2 and eFlyer 4 light aircraft.  A big jump over currently available batteries, OXIS is now evaluating cells that produce 400 Watt-hours per kilogram, with a promised leap to 500 kW-hr by next year.  The best lithium-ion cells at the pack level available now manage 260 …

Tecnalia Aerotaxi Levels with Reasonable Goals

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

Tecnalia, a Spanish technology and engineering firm, presented its Aerotaxi at the Paris Air Show this year.  The company demonstrates a way to make automated flight a little less perturbing to the anxious public, keeping the platform on the straight and level during all phases of flight.  It does this with four gimbaled sets of four propellers, which do all the pivoting and changes of angle while leaving the passenger compartment in a constant plane.  This should do a great deal to calm the reluctant flyer. Tecnalia adds, “Joseba Lasa, one of the people responsible for the development, explained that “the main novelty of Tecnalia’s aircraft lies in the fact that the architecture allows the cabin to maintain its orientation …

EJ-1, A Circle of Power

Dean Sigler Announcements, Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Consider encircircling yourself with a ring of tiny electric motors turning a collection of well-coordinated thrusters.  Electric Jet Aircraft of Anderson, Indiana showed off their vehicle, claimed to be the world’s first wearable electric jetpack – the EJ-1, at Oshkosh, Wisconsin during this week’s AirVenture air show.  A 16-motor, battery-powered rig that weighs around 100 pounds, depending on the battery pack, it’s made to fly several feet off the ground while carrying a 200-pound pilot. The product of 13 years of preliminary design and innovation, the aircraft was test flown before its introduction at the Urban Mobility Showcase at the show.  Composed of four “JetPods,” modules of four electric motors and associated controllers that produce 80 pounds of thrust each, …