Look What Fred To Started!

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

forty years ago today, Fred To’s Solar One flew the length of the runway at Lasham Airfield in Hampshire, England, solely on the energy derived from the weak winter illumination and stored in a small set of ni-cad batteries.. With his partner David Williams, he had built the wooden, model-aircraft-like structure in a farm building, visited by the farm’s horses and pigs. The airplane went on to be displayed at various airshows, and Fred went on to build an inflatable 100-foot-span flying wing that was the first to use “fly-by-wire” technology.  His inventiveness and design skills have informed many projects, as we reported in our November 2018 report on the award ceremony Fred recently attended. In short form, much has …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Carbon Fiber and the Grand Unified Airplane

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

Your editor has long held the belief that we are on the threshold of creating a Grand Unified Airplane, a craft that would draw all its energy from solar cells, the flexing of its wings, the air passing over its form, and the very act of flight itself.  It seems to become less of a science fiction ideal and more of real-world possibility every day.  Carbon fiber could be part of that possibility. What if your airplane were its own battery?  Think of the weight savings and potential endurance and range.  Your editor became fascinated with 2010 research done by Dr. Emile Greenhalgh of Imperial University in London, who developed a structural sandwich with carbon fiber outer layers and a …

Eraole in Flight – Further and Higher

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Hydrogen Fuel, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Eraole is a unique machine in a sea of unique craft.  Powered by a combination of sunlight, Total biofuel, and hydrogen, Raphael Dinelli’s tandem-winged biplane has been under development for many years.  With it, Raphael hopes to cross the Atlantic in 2019, Duplicating Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 flight at about half the Spirit of the Spirit of St. Louis’s speed. Eraole’s first flight took place in 2016.  The video will allow you to compare its look then with its changed appearance today. Changes of Plane, Changes of Plans Dinelli’s original plan for the flight included the use of an algae-derived fuel to run Eraole’s engine/generator.  As reported by La Tribune, though, “For four years, the Ocean Vital Foundation conducted research with …

UAVOS Flies ApusDuo HAPS

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

UAVOS, located in the midst of surrounding Google properties in Mountain View, California, sells a wide variety of goods and services related to the unpiloted aircraft world.  One of their biggest creations so far, the ApusDuo High Altitude Psuedo Satellite (HAPS) ran through a full series of tests.  The 10-meter span prototype vehicle will test control algorithms, including takeoffs and landings and verify HAPS aerodynamics.  According to UAVOS “Test flights fully confirmed the flight characteristics of the UAV.”   This is good news, since their next step will be to make at least a 15-meter wing (49.2 feet) wingspan version.  That will rely even more on “Control of roll, pitch, v-shape and slip…due to a controlled change in the angle of …

HES Element One Could Fly Four 5,000 Kilometers

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

Horizon Energy Systems (HES), originally based in Singapore, has pursued lightweight hydrogen propulsion systems for the last 12 years, primarily for amall drones.  Going larger, the company announced plans today for Element One, “the world’s first regional hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft.” A four-passenger, 14-motored (!) monoplane, Element One will carry the lucky foursome 500 to 5,000 kilometers (310 to 3,100 statute miles).  This distributed power system claims “virtually no change to its current drone-scale systems,” which is a little puzzling, considering the largest of such systems produces no more than 1,000 Watts.  The scale of the Element One and its power packs is ambiguous, with illustrations showing a nine-axle trailer with attached solar panels ostensibly powering the on-site production of H2. …

Lithium-Oxygen Battery Breakthrough

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

The University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada – not far from Niagara Falls) News, reported, “Chemists make breakthrough on the road to creating a rechargeable lithium-oxygen battery.”  Dr. Linda Nazar, Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials, led a team that “Resolved two of the most challenging issues surrounding lithium-oxygen batteries, and in the process created a working battery with near 100 per cent coulombic efficiency.” The new work, which appears this week in the journal Science, Proves that four-electron conversion for lithium-oxygen electrochemistry is highly reversible.”  Waterloo is the first to achieve this, doubling electron storage in lithium-oxygen (Li-O2 – also known as lithium-air) batteries.  The video below touches on this and a great many other chemistries. Dr. Nazar …