Solar Impulse set for U.S. coast-to-coast flight

The ultralight solar-powered aircraft will start its cross-country flight in San Francisco, stopping off in Phoenix and Dallas before landing in Washington, D.C., and then onto its final destination, New York City.

Officials from the Solar Impulse Project (Mountain View, Calif.) said March 28 that their ultralightweight, solar-powered plane, the Solar Impulse is set to take flight across America with the help of diverse material innovations and technologies from Bayer MaterialScience LLC (Pittsburgh, Pa.).

Capable of flying day and night, the unique airplane will start its cross-country flight in San Francisco, stopping off in Phoenix and Dallas before landing in Washington, D.C., and then onto its final destination, New York City.

Reportedly, a successful flight will be considered a key breakthrough for the Solar Impulse project, which ultimately aims its craft to be the first manned aircraft to circumnavigate the globe without carrying fuel. That goal is set for 2015.

Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and Andrè Borschberg, cofounders of and the pilots for the Solar Impulse project, worked closely with Bayer MaterialScience to make the vision possible.

“By collaborating with Solar Impulse, we’re truly living the Bayer motto – ‘Science for a Better Life’ – as we make progress together toward more energy-efficient transportation solutions in the future,” said Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience.

According to Bayer, the highly anticipated Solar Impulse "Flight Across America" showcases several of its high-performance materials and technologies:

  • Polyurethane rigid foams used in the wing tips, motor gondolas and cabin
  • Polycarbonate films used in the cabin window
  • Adhesive and coating raw materials used in the cabin, as well as structure-covering films and wing-covering fabric

“The pioneering Solar Impulse mission is the ideal platform to demonstrate how Bayer’s innovation can contribute to society’s needs,” said Richard Northcote, head of sustainability, Bayer MaterialScience. “We have developed new solutions and applications for our materials and proven they can perform in the most strenuous conditions.

“And, like Solar Impulse, Bayer MaterialScience is committed to reducing energy consumption while investing in clean technologies.”

During the day, 12,000 solar cells on the surface of the aircraft power four electric motors and charge four lithium polymer batteries, enabling the aircraft to fly with solar energy during the night.

“Bayer materials showcased on the plane are the same materials we use to serve other markets and customers, including lightweighting for automotive and transportation, insulation for building and construction and thermal management for consumer electronics,” explained Jerry MacCleary, president, Bayer MaterialScience LLC.

A second aircraft, which is currently under construction, will be used for the 2015 flight around the world. This plane will need to be even more lightweight than the current plane, providing additional opportunities to showcase Bayer’s material innovations.