Doing More With Much, Much Less

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 1 Comment

This dictum from Paul MacCready that we can do a great deal more with far less material expenditure is well realized in a big way by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) with their new type of solar cell. Using about two percent of the silicon semiconductor material normally required for crystalline cells, and achieving a high level of energy conversion, the new cells may also be relatively inexpensive to manufacture. As noted by Harry Atwater in Caltech’s press release, “These solar cells have, for the first time, surpassed the conventional light-trapping limit for absorbing materials…” Atwater is Howard Hughes Professor, professor of applied physics and materials science, and director of Caltech’s Resnick Institute, which according to the …

Registration Now Open for EAS IV

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Registration for the Fourth Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium (EAS IV) is now open.  Intense interest in this year’s excellent program, with experts from around the world providing the latest in design, technology, and real-world examples of electric flight, has produced an added benefit for this year’s attendees.   Formal presentations are only one means of exploring a wealth of information at this year’s Symposium.  The CAFE Foundation, hard-pressed to include all presenters, has scheduled Theme Dinners – an opportunity to hear short, thought-provoking presentations and enjoy lively discussions with the faculty, all accompanied by the great food and fine wines for which the Sonoma Valley is renowned.   This expanded program has already drawn an overflow of presenters.  We anticipate a similar high level of interest from …

Structures as Batteries – or Is It Batteries as Structures?

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Imperial College London and its partners, including Volvo, have announced a  £3.4 million (about $5.44 million) project to develop a new energy storage material that could act as a structural material in cars.  The lightweight, carbon-fiber-based material could replace traditional materials in the car’s structure while storing electrical energy.  This dual-purpose material could save the weight of separate batteries, increase the strength of the car’s structure, and improve overall vehicle performance. Dr. Emile Greenhalgh, of the College’s Aeronatical Department, and coordinator of the project, sees other opportunities for this material. “We are really excited about the potential of this new technology. We think the car of the future could be drawing power from its roof, its bonnet (editor’s note: hood, to you Yanks.) or even the …

Hybrid Hopes or Hype?

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Batteries are achieving increasingly high capacities and outputs, though at a frustratingly slow pace, especially for those of us who want that much hoped-for lightweight power pack that will make the electric backpack helicopter of our dreams a practical reality.  For cars, a viable and attractive alternative to pure battery use in hybrid propulsion is described in an Earth2Tech entry supplied by Dr. Seeley.  That entry describes a three-step approach to making ultracapacitors and batteries into friendly allies in propusion. First, ultracaps should not compete with batteries, but enhance them. “Second, get creative to bring costs down quickly. Third, embrace the niche.” The big problem with batteries is being able to take in or put out large amounts of power …

A Dream Nearing Realization

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Certain objects stir deep feelings upon first viewing.  DESiE is one such object. Its name alphabetizes its description, as translated and explained by one of its creators, Wolfgang Liehmann.   D = doppelsitziges = double-seated E = Enten = duck/canard = tail first S = Segelflugzeug = sailplane i = mit integriertem = with integrated E = Elektroantrieb = electrically-powered engine This two-seater, electrically-powered, canard sailplane has been a labor of love, taking 13 years to reach its current stage, and projected to take another three before its first real flight.  In the meantime, diligent toil and breaks for X-Plane simulated flying are leading toward an aircraft that Wolfgang says, “Shows very satisfying behavior with respect to stall and glide properties.” …

Big Nano

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

A solar cell manufacturer that boasts of 100 times thinner panels than current silicon solar cells, and production rates 100 times faster than with the methods usually employed in the industry will definitely catch our attention.   Nanosolar, of San Jose, California, makes a CIGS-based solar film claimed to be thinner and much less expenive (ultra-low cost, according to Nanosolar) than silicon-based panels.  CIGS stands for copper/indium/gallium/selenium, the primary components of the new film.  Coated onto a thin aluminum substrate, the CIGS ink is literally printed on, the nanoparticles providing a demonstrated efficiency of up to 16.4-percent, verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  Initial production runs are producing panels of at least 11-percent efficiency.  While currently only half as efficient as the best production silicon solar cells, the high-speed manufacturing …

And Now For Something Completely Different

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Tolstoy, in War and Peace, wrote that, “Among the innumerable subdivisions that can be made in the phenomena of life, one can subdivide them all into those in which content predominates and those in which form predominates.” One group attempting to meld form and function is the Land Art Generator Initiative, a group attempting to “bring together artists, architects, scientists, and engineers in a first of its kind collaboration. The goal of the Land Art Generator Initiative is to design and construct a series of land art installations across the UAE that uniquely combine aesthetic intrigue with clean energy generation. The LAGI viewing platforms will be tourist destinations that draw people from around the world to experience the beauty of …

Half a World Apart, United in Their Research

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Dr. Yi Cui, a winner of the 2004 MIT Technology Review World Top 100 Young Innovator Award (among other notable awards), and Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University, was a distinguished presenter at the CAFE Foundation’s Third Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium last April. He talked about the structure and manufacturing of lithium-ion cells, and the material limitations placed on the performance of those cells. His breakthrough in using nanowires in the cathode promises an 80-percent gain in the cell’s charge-holding ability, equivalent to ten years of the normal cell improvement of eight percent per year. The good news was somewhat of a letdown for many, who were hoping to hear of a total …

Electric Trike Flight 13 Years Ago

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 0 Comments

Our article on “The Three Pauls” (November 15, 2009) assumed that Paul Crocker and Paul Dewhurst were the first to fly electrically in Britain.  David Bremner, who had taken the pictures of the flights, set us straight, pointing out that Nigel Beale had been the first to fly with electric power in the UK – in 1996!  Doing a little Internet surfing, I found a great web site, The Battery Vehicle Society.  A post by Kelvin in their June 20, 2007 blog  gives the correct acknowledgement of  Nigel’s accomplishment.  Kelvin wrote this when Randall Fishman had successfully levitated his electrically powered trike in the US. “Just to let you know though us Brits had an electric microlight in the air a long …

Many Happy Hours in Sunny Skies

Dean Sigler Uncategorized 1 Comment

Eric Raymond, over the last 20 years, has accumulated more solar-powered flying hours than any other pilot. And what hours these have been. Having met Gunther Rochelt and flown Rochelt’s Musculair human-powered airplane in 1986, Eric was inspired to apply the light construction techniques to the building of a solar-powered airplane. In 1990, he flew Sunseeker I across the United State in 21 hops totaling 121 hours in the air, going from California to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the birthplace of powered flight. He upgraded Sunseeker over the years, improving the powerplant and aerodynamics of the amazingly light aircraft. Even with solar cells, batteries, and a 2.5 kW motor, the airplane weighed little more than a legal ultralight. Sunseeker II …