July 29, 2016 10:10 am
This week our chosen term from IATE pays homage to a historic feat, as we celebrate the first round-the-world trip completed using a renewable energy source. On Tuesday morning, Solar Impulse 2, a plane with wings wider than that of Boeing 747, and which are equipped with more than 17 000 solar cells, has touched down in Abu Dhabi, thus marking the end of a potentially world-altering voyage. The 17-stage circumnavigation began on 9th March 2015, and covered some 42 000km, encompassing four continents, three seas, two oceans and an immensity of human commitment.
The historic journey has established 19 official aviation records, including the longest uninterrupted solo flight of 118 hours from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii, US. However, the ultimate ambition which saw Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg pilot the plane, did not just concern adventure, or even aviation, but aimed at showcasing the potential of renewable energy. “It is more than an airplane,” Piccard would say of the Solar Impulse. “It is a concentration of clean technologies, a genuine flying laboratory, and illustrates that solutions exist today to meet the major challenges facing our society.”
The aircraft is powered by photovoltaic cells, electrical devices which convert the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect. During this, light is absorbed, causing excitation of a charge carrier, such as an electron, to a higher-energy state. An electric potential, or voltage, is produced, which is then fed to the engine used to power the plane. The plane is capable of flying almost perpetually at a speed of about 30mph, although it can go faster if the sun is bright.
Solar energy is one of the least carbon-intensive means of electricity generation, producing no emissions during its generation and bearing a significantly smaller carbon footprint than fossil fuels. Solar technologies constitute the fastest growing energy source in the world, and on this historic week, their future is looking brighter than ever. Although Piccard and Borschberg’s world journey has come to an end, the journey to a more sustainable world is just beginning.
Written by Iweta Kalinowska
Communication Trainee at TermCoord
- BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36890563 [Accessed 27 July 16]
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/26/solar-impulse-plane-makes-history-completing-round-the-world-trip [Accessed 27 July 16]
- ‘Solar cell’ on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell [Accessed 27 July 16]
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