For environment-friendly persons, its a great news that solar powered aircrafts are going to become a reality in just some years. These days aircrafts uses fuel that releases large amount of hazardous gases that is threat for nature.
Coming from a family of explorers, Piccard made history in March 1999 with a nonstop, around-the-world flight in a hot-air balloon. Now Piccard has set his sights on another ambitious adventure: an around-the-world flight in a solar-powered airplane, the Solar Impulse.
He imagined an aircraft that would take off and climb under its own power, using only energy derived from the sun. At night, the aircraft would remain airborne using battery power.
The proposed aircraft will have to harvest as much solar radiation as possible, store it in extremely high-density, low-weight batteries, convert the energy to propulsive force with superb efficiency, and lose as little as possible in aerodynamic drag. When all the components of the plane are integrated, the result will be an aircraft engineered to razor-thin tolerances. Even the pilot's clothing will be made of special lightweight material.
Piccard hopes his solar plane will be completely self-sustaining and capable of flying continuously, even at night, at altitudes up to 32,800 feet (10,000 meters). "It's a huge project," Piccard conceded. "The plane will have an 80-meter (262-foot) wingspan, which is larger than any commercial aircraft."
Piccard estimates that enough power can be generated to sustain a flight of roughly 60 miles an hour (97 kilometers an hour). The batteries used to fly the plane at night must be incredibly dense, capable of storing 200 watts per kilogram (2.2 pounds).
If the first flight is successful, the 1.5-tonne plane will make a 36-hour flight through the night in 2009, piloted by round-the-world ballooning pioneer Bertrand Piccard.
While pilot-less planes have already accomplished the feat, it is far more difficult with the added size and weight of a pilot on board.
One of the big challenges for the solar flight is how to store enough energy in batteries from its array of solar panels to keep the ultra-lightweight aircraft flying in darkness.
Another issue is how to stretch carbon sheet just a few tenths of millimetres thick over lengths of up to 20m.
The final version of the aircraft is expected to have 250 square metres of solar panels stretched across an almost 80m wingspan, similar in width to the new A380 Airbus superjumbo that made its maiden flight to Australia last month.
However, while the Airbus A380 weighs 580 tonnes, the Solar Impulse will be a mere 2 tonnes.
The US$101 million project aims to emulate the achievements of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, who in 1927 made the world's first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight, but with a solar-powered twist.
The Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (EPFL) has signed on as the project's official scientific advisor.
The reduced-size model, which has a 61m wingspan, is now being built in northern Switzerland to test the technology involved in the full-size Solar Impulse aircraft.
The project's goals include a transatlantic crossing in 2011 before what would be a historic, fuel-less circumnavigation of the globe.
About 150 specialists from six countries are involved in designing Solar Impulse, which is expected to break new ground with its aerodynamics, control systems, energy efficiency, materials and structure.
Hope, this will put an ignition to make other innovations for the effective use of solar-energy utilization and make our Earth less polluted.