Solvay's ultrahigh-performance polymers and know-how have spelt success for the Solar Impulse prototype solar airplane, the group announced. Solar Impulse is an airplane, powered exclusive by photovoltaic cells and capable to fly autonomously, day and night without using any fossil fuels. The prototype of the solar airplane HB-SIA was recently presented in Dübendorf, Switzerland. The company's contribution in the challenging project was the use of its ultra light and ultra performing polymers to replace the heavier metals and in the performance of non-linear numerical stress simulations of the resistance of the ultrahigh performance polymer assemblies.
In total 12 Solvay polymers and products and 6,000 parts made of Solvay ultra light polymers are used in the Solar Impulse in various applications and devices such as parts in the throttle box, monitor control unit, battery fixations and bushings-bearings. Other applications and solutions include balls, bolts and screws, washers, shafts, hinges, spacers and other mechanical pieces of all shapes and sizes. Polyamide-imide Torlon®, polyetheretherketone Primospire® and self reinforced polyphenylene Primospire® are the most used ultra polymers for these applications.
The PFPE-based lubricant with a very wide operating temperature range, will allow the airplane to fly in extremely cold and hot conditions as will the cockpit and motor gondolas, made of special polyurethane foam prepared with a Solvay foaming agent. Solvay's polymers and chemicals are also to increase energy saving and energy efficiency as components in Lithium-batteries to increase their energy density and as an ultra resistant protection film for the photovoltaic cells. Solvay supplied testing services and advice and performed the non-linear stress simulations of the polymer assemblies. The results of the simulations were later confirmed during the stress test of the assemblies. For 2020 Solvay targets a 20% reduction of the emission of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, a decrease of 20% of the transported volumes by road and a decrease by 20% of its air and water emission index.