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Solar aircraft travels the world

An entirely solar-powered aircraft, Solar Impulse, yesterday completed a 71-hour transatlantic flight from New York to Seville in the course of its round-the-world journey, which began last year in Abu Dhabi. The airplane relies on the newest generation of solar cells, batteries and lightweight composites to fly around the world without consuming any fossil fuels.

“The aircraft is essentially a flying smart grid, using the energy collected from renewable sources and then providing it efficiently to users who may require it at a different period of time from when it was generated,” said one of the aircraft’s two pilots, Andre Borschberg.

The aircraft has a wingspan greater than a Boeing 747 but weighs about as much as an ordinary passenger car, and uses a high-capacity lithium-polymer battery system to enable it to fly through the night as well as in full sunlight. Specifically, it utilises over 17,000 SunPower solar cells and over 360kg of advanced lithium-polymer batteries.

It is currently undergoing check-ups and maintenance in Seville before it continues on the next leg of its journey.

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