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Solar Impulse

Humans have always been fascinated by flight.

This, in combination with a desire to construct a greener technology to do so, culminated in the first ever aeronautical adventure of its kind.

An aircraft called Solar Impulse, created and navigated by two men from Switzerland, has managed to fly around the world on shear solar power. It is the brainchild of André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, and is true ingenuity in motion.

Though there have been other solar inventions capable of flight, this is the first solely sun-powered airplane that can also be flown at night. This is due to the energy absorbed from 12,000 lightweight, curved solar cells which are the actual wings. Starting in 1999, the idea grew to its first flight in 2009 hovering at about 3 feet above the ground for less than 30 seconds. After much testing, simulation and innovative progress, it grew into full flight in 2012 making it famous for being the first international solar journey.

Made of carbon fibers it is completely different than any other plane. It does not need gas to skate through the air but harnesses the sun’s power, distributing it to the engines and then to solar fueled batteries for extra energy storage. It never needs a refuel, just another sunrise. It does not go extremely fast, cruising well at around 30 miles per hour. It also has a reportedly muted engine, so it does not even make a lot of noise.

With the team and skillful crew of engineers planning another flight for 2013, we can only wait and see what is on the Solar Impulse’s horizon. If it is possible to fuel and fly an airplane using only the sun’s energy, it raises the question as to why we are not currently utilizing solar power in more of our daily endeavors.

Source: CBS News: 60 Minutes. December, 2012. Retrieved from: Solar Impulse
Image Source: Solar Impulse: Photograph from Mission 2012.

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