Covestro products spur Solar Impulse Mission pioneering project
The pioneering Solar Impulse plane is preparing to take-off from Hawaii for the final stages of its round-the-world flight using only solar power – with Covestro’s innovative high-tech polymer materials on board to help it on its journey to Abu Dhabi.
Si2 is scheduled to leave Hawaii soon, heading for the west coast of the USA before crossing the country to arrive at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. On board will be the most advanced polyurethane and polycarbonate systems from Covestro, which significantly reduce the weight of the plane while ensuring protection for the pilot.
During the stages across the USA, Covestro will be hosting a number of events for stakeholders – including customers, the news media, students and employees – to explain the company’s involvement in the Solar Impulse project. A highlight of these presentations will be the central role of sustainability for the business and how this is reflected in the Solar Impulse project, which has been demonstrating in a dramatic way how today’s technology can contribute to what many believed impossible.
“Not only is Covestro committed to a strong sustainability agenda, it sits at the heart of our business strategy,” says Richard Northcote, the company’s chief sustainability officer. “Solar Impulse embodies everything we stand for as a company and is making a significant contribution to raising awareness of the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while increasing our need to be more energy efficient.
“When we invest carbon in our products, we want to make sure that we get a good return on that investment. So, when we use oil-based derivatives to make insulation foam, we expect to see the product save as much as 70 times the carbon used to make it, during the lifetime of the product. That is a good investment of carbon,” he adds.
Si2 has been in Hawaii since July last year, when its round-the-world flight was interrupted by battery damage following the historic five days and night flight from Nagoya, Japan, to Hawaii, USA. Covestro, which has been a Solar Impulse project partner since 2010 as well as its official technical partner, recently renewed its sponsorship of the project, taking it through to the end of 2018.
Following its route across the USA, Solar Impulse will attempt the Atlantic crossing into Europe and then start its final trip back to Abu Dhabi, where it started its epic journey in March, 2015.
Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard – Initiator and Chairman – and André Borschberg – CEO and Co-Founder – are the pilots and driving force behind Solar Impulse, the first airplane able to fly day and night without a drop of fuel – propelled solely by the sun’s energy. Supported by Main Partners Solvay, Omega, Schindler, ABB, and Official Partners Google, Altran, Covestro, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, Swisscom and Moët Hennessy, they are attempting the first Round-The-World Solar Flight with Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) – demonstrating that clean technologies can achieve the impossible.
Si2 is a concentration of clean technologies – a genuine flying laboratory. It is a single-seater aircraft made of carbon fibre that has a 72m / 236ft wingspan (larger than a Boeing 747) for a weight of 2300kg / 5100lb (the equivalent of an empty family car). The 17248 solar cells built into the wing power the four batteries (38.5kWh per battery) that in turn power the four electric engines (13.5kW / 17.5hp each) and the propellers with renewable energy. The plane is therefore capable of saving a maximum amount of energy during the day and flying throughout the night on batteries. Si2 requires zero fuel and has virtually unlimited autonomy: theoretically, Si2 could fly forever and is only limited by the pilot’s sustainability.