This article presents overview of various aspects and use of a solar-powered airplane. The plane, Solar Impulse 2, started on its world tour in March from Abu Dhabi. The founders of the project, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, are taking turns as pilots. Solvay, a French company that makes high-performance polymers, became an early partner. The airplane’s 72-meter-long wing spars had extraordinary structural and weight requirements. The Solar Impulse team came up with a laminate, consisting of a honeycomb structure, made of a high-performance Torlon polymer provided by Solvay, sandwiched between super-thin layers of carbon fiber composite. Lightweight, highly efficient foam insulation is being tested by Bayer in affordable housing in the Philippines and Malaysia. Solar Impulse could not afford cabin pressurization or heating because of weight requirements. Instead, designers insulated the cabin so that retaining the pilot’s body heat and that of the instruments would keep conditions bearable. Engineers at Bayer went to work on some ultra-lightweight and highly effective polyurethane foam insulation. Solar Impulse has helped push technological limits.

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