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

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

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 …

Plasmonics – Not a New Rock Group

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

A good deal of what we see in life is counter-intuitive – things like pushing forward on the control stick when the airplane stalls and is headed downhill already.  Plasmonic metamaterials as designed by University of Pennsylvania scientists have counter-intuitive properties, such as breaking light that strikes them into surface plasmon polaritons with shorter wavelengths than the original incident light. This quantum-like reaction occurs when, “Light hitting a metamaterial is transformed into electromagnetic waves of a different variety—surface plasmon polaritons, which are shorter in wavelength than the incident light. This transformation leads to unusual and counterintuitive properties that might be harnessed for practical use. Moreover, new approaches that simplify the fabrication process of metamaterials are under development. This work also …