Dübendorf, Switzerland -- Solar Impulse, an airplane powered exclusively by photovoltaic cells and able to fly automatically, day and night without using any fossil fuels, uses special polyurethane foam prepared with a Solvay foaming agent in its cockpit and motor gondolas.
Other Solvay know-how and ultra-high-performance polymers have contributed to the success of the Solar Impulse prototype.
Solvay is the main sponsor in this challenging project, which seeks to generate maximum support for technologies that will permit sustainable development. The prototype of the solar airplane HB-SIA was presented to the press 26 June in Dübendorf, Switzerland.
Solvay's contribution involves development of solutions based on ultra-light and ultra-performing polymers to replace heavier metals. The company has also carried -out non-linear numerical stress simulations of the resistance of the ultra-high-performance polymer assemblies.
In all, 12 Solvay polymers and products and 6000 parts made of Solvay ultra light polymers are used in the Solar Impulse in various applications and devices such as parts in the throttle box, monitor control unit, battery fixations and bushings-bearings. Other applications and solutions include balls, bolts and screws, washers, shafts, hinges, spacers and other mechanical pieces of all shapes and sizes. Polyamide-imide, polyetheretherketone and self reinforced polyphenylene are the most used ultra polymers for these applications.
Solvay claims that the PFPE-based lubricant with a very wide operating temperature range will allow the airplane to fly in extremely cold and hot conditions as will the cockpit and motor gondolas, made of polyurethane foam.