Will You Be Able to Print the Solar Cells for Your Wings?

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

That may sound like a silly question, but thin-film solar cells are pushing the boundaries of lightness and efficiency that will make them viable candidates for use on aircraft.  Looking back at earlier achievements demonstrates the great things that can be done with limited resources.  Eric Raymond, for instance, made a solar-powered flight across the United States in 1990 on amorphous solar cells that were only about two percent efficient. His Sunseeker Duo, which he flies around Italy and Switzerland with Irena, his wife and co-builder, has modern thin-film cells that are 23-percent efficient – a ten-fold gain.  Before that, the earliest two solar-powered flights were charged by big, round solar cells, not terribly efficient and lacking full coverage of …

Sunexelec – Recharging in Flight

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

The Club d’Ultra Léger d’Alsace is a group of French enthusiasts in Strasbourg, on the German border about halfway between Luxembourg and Switzerland. They have been building ultralight aircraft since 1983, tackling technological innovations such as carbon fiber leading edges, motorization, electrification, and now solar power. They were the first to motorize a Swift, and with one of their craft electrically powered, mounted strips of photovoltaic cells to the upper wing surface.  Finding that worked to boost battery duration, the group went on to mount 6.1 square meters of solar cells on an Alpaero Exelec, an ultralight self-launching sailplane. After making 60 flights on battery power between May and April of this year, the group installed the solar cells on …