The Solar Impulse aircraft, powered only by solar energy, has successfully completed its first night flight. The ultralight aircraft was airborne for a total of 26 hours - from 7 am on July 7 until 9 am the following day (Central European Time) - before finally landing as planned at Payerne airbase in Switzerland. It is now officially the first manned aircraft capable of flying day and night without fuel, powered entirely by solar energy.
Bayer MaterialScience is supporting the Swiss-based Solar Impulse SA with technical expertise, high-tech polymer materials and energy-saving lightweight products. Among the materials incorporated in the aircraft on its successful inaugural flight was a very lightweight polyurethane foam from Puren GmbH. It is based on raw materials from the Leverkusen company and is used in the cockpit cladding, the engine cowling and the wings. Products from Bayer MaterialScience also feature in the cockpit windows, which consist of thin but very strong Makrofol polycarbonate film. The next solar-powered aircraft will contain a significantly greater proportion of Bayer products. The company is working flat out on the development of further ultra-lightweight materials. Baytubes carbon nanotubes (CNTs) from Bayer MaterialScience, for example, could improve the strength of structural components while keeping their weight to a minimum. In 2013 a second prototype is scheduled to fly right round the world in five stages, each lasting five days, traveling at an average speed of 70 km/hr.