Black-silicon Cell Efficiency above 130 Percent

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

Aalto University in Espoo, Finland has announced a seemingly impossible breakthrough – black-silicon solar cells that exceed 100-percent efficiency.  This breaks the Shockley-Queisser limit, previously thought to be an unbreakable barrier to any solar cell generating more than 33.7-percent efficiency for a single p-n junction photovoltaic cell.  The 1,000 Watts of sunlight falling on a square meter of single-junction solar cells could never produce more than 337 Watts to a battery or other receiving mechanism.  William Shockley, a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his co-creation of the transistor and Hans-Joachim Queisser defined this limit at Shockley Semiconductor in 1961. In a traditional solid-state semiconductor such as silicon, a solar cell is made from two doped crystals.  One is an n-type semiconductor, which has extra free electrons, …

Switzerland to the North Sea – Flying Electrically

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We’re still early in attempts to set world records with electric airplanes.  Jean-Luc Soullier, a friend of the blog, held many of them a decade ago, flying a little Colomban MC-30, an ultralight designed by one of Concorde’s engineers.  At the other end of the size scale, Solar Impulse set many records on its globe-girdling treks.  Now, a five-member mostly German team hopes to set seven world records “in one fell swoop” as they electrically traverse 700 kilometers (435 miles) between the Schanis, Switzerland airport and Norderney Airport on Germany’s North Sea. Friends of Electric Mobility The five have interesting professional lives beyond their love of flight.  “Futurologist Morell Westermann, Swiss pilot Marco Buholzer, the Norderneyer brewer Tobi Pape, the …

SolarStratos Returns to Service

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SolarStratos, a mission envisioned by Raphaël  Domjan and an airplane designed by Calin Gologan,  returns to the skies after suffering a literal break in its program in 2018. During a series of tests that put increasingly heavy loads on the wings, its left wing broke with what was called a “technical damage.”  This type of breakage during stress testing is not uncommon, especially on what are special machines such as SolarStratos and Solar Impulse.  Solar Impulse 2 suffered a similar break when its newly-designed wing was being tested.  As noted, this type of setback takes the team back to the drawing board, but also besets them with new reflections on their ongoing decisions.  If it were easy, everyone would be …

Austrians, Swiss, Chinese Launch Three New Electric Aircraft

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

Three companies with divergent backgrounds launched three new electric aircraft in the last few months. 1973, and Its Descendants are Still Electric As noted in the blurb for its historic YouTube video for its first electric flight 46 years ago, “HB Flugtechnik is the pioneer in electric flight. The world’s first electric powered flight took place on October 21st, 1973 in Austria. 50 years later this company is still in business and doing better than ever. Given, that we talk about the aviation business, this is an outstanding and remarkable achievement. Today, HB Flugtechnik located at the now newly refurbished airfield Hofkirchen LOLH is not only the major MRO (Maintenance, Repair Organization or Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) for aircraft in …

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 …

Solar Impulse Foundation Seeks 1,000 Solutions

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Andre’ Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, founders and pilots of Solar Impulse, have founded an important outgrowth of their globe-spanning mission – The World Alliance for Efficient Solutions.  With almost 500 members and seeking 1,000 with responsible and profitable solutions the two are working to gain investors in literally saving the world. Bertrand Piccard sees a current vision of a world that’s out of phase with technological reality.  In an editorial, he mused: “When I was flying with my solar plane over the Atlantic Ocean, I remember looking at the sun that was giving energy to my four electric motors and their huge propellers. There was no noise, no pollution, no fuel… and I could fly forever. At one moment I …

Vin Fiz and Solar Impulse

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Calbraith Perry Rodgers, the first person to fly across the United States, was deaf from an early childhood disease.  Even though he came from a long line of naval heroes, this handicap kept him from joining the Navy, but didn’t slow his quest for adventure.  He was one of the first to sign up for flying lessons with the Wright Brothers at their home base in Ohio. He was 31 years old when William Randolph Hearst offered a $50,000 prize to the first aviator to fly coast-to-coast in 30 days or less.  Rodgers convinced the Armour Meat Packing Company to sponsor his attempt as a promotion for their new soft drink, Vin Fiz.  As a coincidence, your editor visited the …

Facebook Unveils a Very Big, Very Light Electric Flying Wing

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is intent on providing at least basic Internet services to everyone in the world, even if means creating his own air force to accomplish that lofty goal. March 27, 2014, he shared his overall plan, including a large fleet of airplanes that would loiter in the stratosphere, beaming high-speed Internet connections to one and all. Just a few days ago, Zuckerberg announced the completion of the first full-scale aircraft for this grand plan, the Aquila.  Aquila has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but weighs in at around 400 kilograms (880 pounds).  Apparently built in England by his recently acquired team of aeronautical experts, Aquila will be able to stay in the air for months at a …

There’s an Airplane in There Somewhere

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Looking like an igloo condominium, Solar Impulse’s inflatable hangar was hastily shipped to Nagoya Airport in Japan to protect the large, but vulnerable, machine from weather damage.  Before the temporary hangar could be installed, though, high winds caused part of the structure holding a cover over the right wing to hit the aileron and cause minor damage. Solar Impulse reports, “In the early hours of Tuesday 2 June as we were in the process of offloading the material and beginning to prepare the mount the mobile hangar, there were wind gusts which led to damage to SIB, on a small part of the wing. We do not see this as being a major issue, but we do not have a full evaluation of the time …

Getting Sideways in SI2

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Any pilot who’s had to land an airplane at its crosswind limit knows that each airplane has a point where its controls cannot overcome the sideways force, and one cannot perform the final level, straight-down-the-runway touchdown.  Usually, pilots do a go-around or find a more wind-oriented runway.  Solar Impulse’s explanation under the video tells why this is almost impossible under deteriorating conditions with a craft as huge and slow as SI2. Take note of the control inputs test pilot Marcus Scherdel makes in the final moments of the August 30, 2014 flight. The Solar Impulse team released this video in the last week, perhaps to explain why the crew is waiting for a positive “weather window” before embarking on a planned five-day …