Gamera: First Solar-Powered Helicopter

Dean Sigler Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Solar Gamera, an extension of the human-powered helicopter that achieved the longest HPH duration flight in 2013, just made the first solar-powered helicopter flight.  In 2014, a group of undergraduate students at the University of Maryland turned Team Gamera into Solar Gamera, “to test the feasibility of applying solar power in achieving human helicopter flight.” Ph.D. student William Staruk, a member of the original HPH team, reflected, “Today you are seeing the first successful flights of the Gamera Solar-Powered Helicopter. You are seeing aviation history being made in the history of green aviation and rotary blade aviation.” Gamera’s lattice-work framework, 100-foot square with extremely large rotors at the ends of four beams, carried materials science major Michelle Mahon on two short …

Caging Hydrogen in Self-assembling Origami Structures

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Let’s say that you’re really good at folding pieces of paper into miniature birds such as cranes, or life-size elephants, something origami artist Sipho Mabona did recently, starting with a 50-foot by 50-foot piece of paper (he had help from up to 40 others).   The paper elephant, including a metal subframe to support it, weighs over 500 pounds. How about using origami to trap hydrogen in a novel approach to storing energy for fuel cells?  Only, instead of paper, you might use sheets of graphene cleverly folded into cages no more than a few nanometers across – the opposite of the elephant in the art gallery.  Researchers at the University of Maryland’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Maryland NanoCenter, have …

Nanopaper Solar Cells – Finest Wood Pulp in the World

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Nanopapers are, like the paper we use daily, made from wood pulp, but in this case reduced to nano-sized lengths and formed into “a network of nanofibrillated (tangled) cellulose (NFC).” This tangled network, a seemingly impenetrable mass, is surprisingly transparent, and the paper’s increased light scattering makes it 90 to 95-percent transparent (a counter-intuitive thought).  Earlier discoveries showed that coating the paper with carbon nanotubes “made the paper very strong and highly conductive, which could allow it to be used for printed electronics (such as circuit boards) and in products that require a lightweight construction.” Extracting NFC from ordinary paper fibers is a time and energy intensive process, so the next batch of  nanopaper won’t use these fibers, instead “detangling” …

Transformative EV Range Expansion?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

In what may be eventual good news for future electric aviators, the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) will award approximately $36 million to 22 projects to develop transformational electric vehicle (EV) energy storage systems using innovative chemistries, architectures and designs.  ARPA-E also uses the term, “revolutionary.” The series of awards is part of the RANGE program (Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems), intended “to enable a 3X increase in electric vehicle range (from ~80 to ~240 miles per charge) with a simultaneous price reduction of > 1/3 (to ~ $30,000). If successful, these vehicles will provide near cost and range parity to gasoline-powered ICE vehicles, ARPA-E said.” “Transformational” comes straight from the CAFE …

AeroVelo Captures Sikorsky Prize

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

This was not their first rodeo.  Core members of the AeroVelo human-powered helicopter team, “Have been working together since 2006 on the world record setting Snowbird Human-Powered Ornithopter as well as the series of high-speed streamlined bicycles. Over the course of the various projects we have built a wealth of experience in human performance, lightweight composite construction, and advanced aerodynamic design.” Their Snowbird maintained altitude for 19.3 seconds on only human power.  Even though towed into the air, it flew on its own after the pilot released the towrope.  The beauty of this flight is so compelling the footage has been used in Honda commercials. Their record attempt streamlined bicycles are part of a series that make attempts on the …

Gamera II Does 50 Seconds

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The University of Maryland students established an unofficial world record for human-powered helicopter flight, hovering for 50 seconds and edging toward the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize offered by the American Helicopter Society.   The rules for winning are straightforward, but difficult to achieve. Build a helicopter powered only by human means Lift off and achieve a hover time of 60 seconds Achieve a height of 3 meters sometime during the 60 second flight Stay within a 10 square meter area during the 60 second flight As can be seen in last year’s record attempt, the altitude and area constraints are difficult, with little control over altitude other than adding power – already at a human maximum, and limited ability to stay within …

Lifting Yourself by a Disappearing Thread

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The University of Maryland announced the successful 11.4 second flight of an American human-powered helicopter with a female pilot – now the National record holder and successor to the first female flight on such a machine – 17 years ago. In 1994, your editor attended a human-powered aircraft symposium in Seattle at the Boeing Museum of Flight. Paul MacCready signed my copy of Gossamer Odyssey and I was official observer (for Chris Roper of the Royal Aeronautical Society) of the first female-powered helicopter flight.  Ward Griffiths, a svelte young thing from a local bike shop, cranked the very similar (to Gamera) thing into the air for 8.6 seconds – a first and a female record at that time.  A Japanese gentleman had …

A Pair of Viruses Good for Your Computer – and Maybe Your Electric Vehicle

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants 0 Comments

To say that your battery is “smoking” would normally be the sign of a failed circuit, but researchers at the A. James Clark School of Engineering and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland may be putting a virus that’s bad even for tobacco to good use in creating a battery that may be up to 10 times more powerful than today’s best lithium cells.   Professor Reza Ghodssi, director of the Institute for Systems Research and Herbert Rabin Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Clark School,  is “harnessing and exploiting the ‘self-renewing’ and ‘self-assembling’ properties” of the  Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV), which in its unrestrained natural state destroys tobacco, tomatoes, peppers and other leafy green things.   …