Leverkusen, Germany -- Bayer MaterialScience has become an official partner of the Solar Impulse project, whose founders, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, are developing the first manned aircraft intended to fly around the world day and night without fuel, propelled solely by solar energy.
Cutting-edge technology is incorporated into the prototype, which has the wingspan of a large airliner (63.40 m) and the weight of a midsize car (1600 kg), BMS said. As the picture shows, some 12 000 solar cells cover its surface, to run four electrical engines and store the solar energy for the night in 400 kg of lithium batteries.
BMS said in a 31 March announcement that it will support the project with technical expertise, polymer materials and energy-saving lightweight products, for example its carbon nanotubes. These could increase battery performance and improve the strength of structural parts while minimising weight.
The group lists other potential ways to exploit its materials: innovative adhesives, polyurethane rigid foams for cockpit panels and engine, and thin but tough polycarbonate for cockpit glazing.
In December 2009, the Solar Impulse made its first 'flea hop' take-off and further flights, including night flights, are scheduled for this summer. The aim is to design and build a second airplane to fly around the world in 25 days, at an average speed of 70 km/h, in a flight scheduled for 2013.
Patrick Thomas, ceo of Bayer MaterialScience said BMS "will have the unique opportunity to contribute our know-how and innovative new materials," and Bertrand Piccard, Initiator of Solar Impulse, noted the boost that BMS's support offers. "I've always been fascinated by nanotechnology. Now, with Bayer MaterialScience as an official partner, we will be able to make our airplane even lighter and more efficient."