Solar Impulse Plane Completes Cross-America Flight with Help from Bayer MaterialScience

16 July 2013

The Solar Impulse, which is an ultra-lightweight, solar-powered plane capable of flying day and night, flew across America with the help of materials and technologies from Bayer MaterialScience.

The plane was flown by co-founders and pilots of the Solar Impulse project André Borchberg and Bertrand Piccard from San Francisco to New York City, US, stopping in Phoenix Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington D.C.

“The Solar Impulse across America flight is a significant breakthrough and is an ideal platform to demonstrate how Bayer materials can contribute to sustainable development, including energy-efficient transportation,” said Richard Northcote, Head of Sustainability, Bayer MaterialScience. “And, like Solar Impulse, Bayer MaterialScience is committed to reducing energy consumption while investing in clean technologies.”

The Solar Impulse across America aircraft showcased several Bayer materials and technologies including its polyurethane rigid foams used in the wing tips, motor gondolas and cabin as well as its polycarbonate films used in the cabin window. Bayer’s adhesive and coating raw materials were used in the cabin, as well as structure-covering films and wing-covering fabric.

Even as the ultra-lightweight Solar Impulse plane’s Across America flight comes to a successful close, engineers are busy testing the next version of the plane meant to fly around the world in 2015.

At the RUAG Large Subsonic Wind Tunnel in Emmen, Switzerland, engineers are in the midst of testing a polyurethane foam cockpit shell developed by Bayer MaterialScience. The tests will verify the airworthiness of the structure and the cabin door, and will also simulate the behaviour of the materials during flight.

“The opportunities on this new aircraft are really limitless as the components will need to be even more lightweight than this first plane model, providing additional opportunities to showcase Bayer’s material innovations,” said Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience.

For the new plane, now under construction, Bayer says it is contributing a polyurethane insulating material for the cockpit that insulates significantly better than standard versions of the material to better protect against in-flight temperature fluctuations between minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit and plus 122 Fahrenheit. Bayer is also researching how to improve the pilot’s vision by reducing occurrences of condensation, and developing more suitable coatings for the wings.

“Bayer employees involved in the Solar Impulse project are committed to researching solutions to all of these challenges,” said Jerry MacCleary, President, Bayer MaterialScience. “The material solutions showcased on Solar Impulse will be used to serve our customers in a variety of markets, including lightweight materials for automotive and transportation, insulating materials for building and construction, and thermal management for consumer electronics.”

Photo provided by Bayer MaterialScience.

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