Archives for category: Solar Sailing

Solar Impulse to fly across America – day and night without fuel

Solar Impulse, the Swiss solar powered airplane, plans to depart from San Francisco today with Bertrand Piccard in the single seater cockpit, to complete the first leg of its coast-to-coast flights across the USA. It is the first time that a solar airplane capable of flying day and night without fuel, will attempt to fly across America. This journey is also the occasion to launch an initiative called “Clean Generation” to gather worldwide support for the adoption of clean technologies.

Flying Coast to Coast across the United States has always been a mythical endeavor in aviation history. Achieving this in a solar airplane capable of flying day and night without fuel, shows the enormous potential of clean technologies in terms of energy efficiency and renewable energy use. With this adventure, Solar Impulse wants to inspire and motivate as many people as possible to embrace the pioneering spirit that allowed this revolutionary solar-powered airplane to become a reality.

This is why thousands of people, amongst which James Cameron, Buzz Aldrin, Richard Branson, Elie Wiesel and Erik Lindbergh, are supporting the “Clean Generation” Initiative to encourage governments, businesses and decision-makers to push for the adoption of clean technologies and sustainable energy solutions. Concretely, the names of all those who will join this movement of pioneers will be carried in the cockpit of the airplane as virtual passengers. At every stopover city along the way, more and more names will be added onto the list.

About the first leg San Francisco – Phoenix

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will be Solar Impulse’s first stop. The airplane is expected to take off today at 6:00 am (PDT) from Moffett Field, NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View (CA), and land the following day around 1 am (MST) in Phoenix (AZ). Estimated flight duration is 19 hours.

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will alternately pilot the solar airplane to complete the challenge of flying without a drop of fuel across the USA from the West to the East Coasts. The first leg of the flight leading to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (AZ) will be completed by Bertrand Piccard. André Borschberg will fly for the last leg culminating in New York at JF Kennedy Airport.

Solar Impulse Moffett Field – Phoenix Sky Harbor Route:

06:00 am PDT (03:00 pm Swiss Time): Take-off from Moffett Field, Mountain View (CA) USA

08:00 am PDT (05:00 pm Swiss Time): Heading south east towards Fresno – ascending to an altitude of 16’000 ft

01:30 pm PDT (10:30 pm Swiss Time): Passing Bakersfield continues direction Palmdale – cruising altitude 21’000 ft

04:30 pm PDT (01:30 am Swiss Time): Flying over Barstow – continue direction Arizona between Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park

01:00 am MST (10:00 am Swiss Time): Estimated landing at Phoenix Sky Harbor (AZ) USA

For more information about this flight go to  Darko Kapelina is interested in clean regenerative sailing ideas and sytems.


For Bertrand Piccard, the idea to build a solar-powered plane capable of circumnavigating the globe was hatched while running on empty. In March 1999, Piccard was on the final leg of an around-the-world journey by hot air balloon—the first-ever nonstop flight of its kind—when his Breitling Orbiter 3 swept low over the Egyptian desert and skidded to a halt on the corrugated plains. As Piccard stepped out onto the hot sand, he checked the fuel tanks mounted on his gondola and got a shock that became a defining moment. “We had left Switzerland with four tons of propane,” he remembers. “We only had 40 kilos left! We almost didn’t make it. I promised myself that next time I would fly around the world without using any fuel at all.” Read more:

Darko Kapelina believes that this April 25, 2013 Wall Street Journal article about circumnavigating the globe in an airplane powered by only solar energy proves that circumnavigating the globe is also possible with regenerative sailing.  Kapelina is interested in ideas relating to clean regenerative sailing.

Diesel engine exhaust contains carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other potentially toxic gases. It also contains fine particulate matter, some in the form of soot, which can build up in a person’s lungs. People who live in high-traffic or high-smog areas or who work around diesel engines and diesel fumes can develop health problems, some of which can be lethal.

Diesel Exhaust Fumes Linked to Cancer and Other Serious Health Effects

With the recent confirmation by the World Health Organization (WHO) that diesel engine fumes can cause cancer in humans, millions worldwide will now know the serious health risks in breathing in diesel gas fumes. Diesel exhaust fumes are ‘major cancer risk’ and as deadly as asbestos and mustard gas, says World Health Organization.

Read more:

People at Risk

Children and the elderly are the most at risk of health problems associated with exposure to diesel fumes. People with cardiovascular diseases, emphysema and asthma are also more vulnerable than otherwise healthy people to the effects of diesel exhaust.

Effects of Acute Exposure

Acute exposure is short-term exposure to diesel exhaust. This short-term exposure can cause eye, nose and throat irritation and can cause the victim to feel light-headed. Breathing diesel fumes can cause those with asthma to suffer an attack and may interfere with the breathing of emphysema sufferers. If a person is subjected to repeated acute exposure, his health problems may become chronic and worsen over time.

Effects of Chronic Exposure

Chronic exposure can either be repeated short exposures or the result of being around diesel fumes for long periods. The fine particles in diesel exhaust have substances such as formaldehyde attached to them. When breathed by a person for long periods of time, these particles and other gases and substances in diesel exhaust can damage the immune system, interfere with hormone production and cause cancer.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation: avoid exposure to diesel exhaust. 

Darko Kapelina is interested in clean regenerative sailing ideas and systems.

Darko Kapelina believes that we are on the cusp of breakthroughs in LiON (lithium-ion) battery technology. However, none of the current efforts focus on leveraging advancements as it relates to clean sailing. The majority of the focus, as is to be expected, is in the areas of obvious transportation vehicles, such as airplanes and autos. The fact that major corporations in these industries have a vested interest in accelerating the speed of advancements in the technology means that substantial investments focused on accelerating safety and improving storage capability have been made.
Currently, corporate giants such as Boeing (the airplane manufacturer) and major auto manufacturers such as Ford, GM and Nissan (Toyota and BMW are in a partnership to develop the next generation lithium battery called lithium-air), are working aggressively with their LiON battery suppliers to insure advancements in safety, longevity, capacity, as well as a reduction in size and cost.
As of January 2013, a new World Record is on the books for battery technology. Thanks to a tiny particle resembling an egg yolk, scientists have been able to dramatically increase LiON battery storage capacity. According to their paper in Nature Communications, researchers from Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the newly discovered material is described as a “sulfur-TiO2 yolk-shell nanoarchitecture with internal void space for long-cycle lithium-sulphur batteries.” This material can be used in the cathode of LiON batteries to overcome a key obstacle that has stumped scientists for the past two decades. The result: a fivefold increase in the amount of energy that can be stored in a LiON battery!
When this breakthrough comes to market, the gasoline and diesel engine will become obsolete, and most sailboats of the future will have access to clean, regenerative power. Darko Kapelina is interested in ideas and systems relating to regenerative sailing.

Update as of April 11, 2013

9 Apr 2013 | Switzerland
Tin nanocrystals for the battery of the future

More powerful batteries could help electric cars achieve a considerably larger range and thus a breakthrough on the market. A new nanomaterial for lithium ion batteries developed in the labs of chemists at ETH Zurich and Empa could come into play here.

They provide power for electric cars, electric bicycles, smartphones and laptops; nowadays, rechargeable lithium ion batteries are the storage media of choice when it comes to supplying a large amount of energy in a small space and light weight. All over the world, scientists are currently researching a new generation of such batteries with an improved performance. Scientists headed by Maksym Kovalenko from the Laboratory of Inorganic Chemistry at ETH Zurich and Empa have now developed a nanomaterial which enables considerably more power to be stored in lithium ion batteries.

The nanomaterial is composed of tiny tin crystals, which are to be deployed at the minus pole of the batteries (anode). When charging the batteries, lithium ions are absorbed at this electrode; while discharging, they are released again. “The more lithium ions the electrodes can absorb and release – the better they can breathe, as it were – the more energy can be stored in a battery,” explains Kovalenko.

The element tin is ideal for this: every tin atom can absorb at least four lithium ions. However, the challenge is to deal with the volume change of tin electrodes: tin crystal becomes up to three times bigger if it absorbs a lot of lithium ions and shrinks again when it releases them back. The scientists thus resorted to nanotechnology: they produced the tiniest tin nanocrystals and embedded a large number of them in a porous, conductive permeable carbon matrix. Much like how a sponge can suck up water and release it again, an electrode constructed in this way can absorb lithium ions while charging and release them when discharging. If the electrode were made of a compact tin block, this would practically be impossible.

During the development of the nanomaterial, the issue of the ideal size for the nanocrystals arose, which also carries the challenge of producing uniform crystals. “The trick here was to separate the two basic steps in the formation of the crystals – the formation of as small as a crystal nucleus as possible on the one hand and its subsequent growth on the other,” explains Kovalenko. By influencing the time and temperature of the growth phase, the scientists were able to control the size of the crystals. “We are the first to produce such small tin crystals with such precision,” says the scientist.

Using uniform tin nanocrystals, carbon, and binding agents, the scientists produced different test electrodes for batteries. “This enables twice as much power to be stored compared to conventional electrodes,” says Kovalenko. The size of the nanocrystals did not affect the storage capacity during the initial charging and discharging cycle. After a few charging and discharging cycles, however, differences caused by the crystal size became apparent: batteries with ten-nanometre crystals in the electrodes were able to store considerably more energy than ones with twice the diameter. The scientists assume that the smaller crystals perform better because they can absorb and release lithium ions more effectively. “Ten-nanometre tin crystals thus seem to be just the ticket for lithium ion batteries,” says Kovalenko.

As the scientists now know the ideal size for the tin nanocrystals, they would like to turn their attention to the remaining challenges of producing optimum tin electrodes in further research projects. These include the choice of the best possible carbon matrix and binding agent for the electrodes, and the electrodes’ ideal microscopic structure. Moreover, an optimal and stable electrolyte liquid in which the lithium ions can travel back and forth between the two poles in the battery also needs to be selected. Ultimately, the production costs are also an issue, which the researchers are looking to reduce by testing which cost-effective base materials are suitable for electrode production. The aim is to prepare batteries with an increased energy storage capacity and lifespan for the market, in collaboration with a Swiss industrial partner.

Source and top image: ETH

Darko Kapelina is interested in ideas and systems relating to clean regenerative sailing.

Electric Motor Sailing — Why Use Diesel When Electric Works?

Why use a diesel or a gas motor to propel a sailboat when an electric motor can do the job more efficiently, more cost effectively, and without polluting our environment?

It’s not because an electric motor cannot generate the power necessary to recharge the house batteries the way a diesel motor with a generator can… 

It’s not that inboard electric motors are not available, because for decades there have been many inboard electric motors produced that can propel a sailboat very effectively and can also serve as generators while sailing. 

Nevertheless, the adoption of the electric motor breakthrough has been spotty at best.  Why? because it doesn’t fit the existing sailing paradigm! Darko Kapelina believes the time for electric motor sailing is here and he is interested in all ideas and systems relating to clean regenerative sailing. 

Wind Turbine Progress: Why Not Wind Power?
Wind power is another power source not reliant on fossil fuels, and it’s especially applicable on sailboats as it can serve to supplement solar power. In some circumstances where wind speed is constant, wind generators can produce more power than solar on a daily basis.
Darko Kapelina says that advancements in high-efficiency wind turbine technology have been growing rapidly. However, in the shadows of multi-megawatt wind turbines is another growing sector, the cost effective, high-efficiency wind turbines developed for residential applications. These wind turbines have:
• Improved airfoil designs for maximum efficiency at low wind speed
• High-efficiency direct drive permanent magnet alternators
• Enhanced governing methods
• Highly sophisticated controls and inverters
These advances enable sailboat owners to integrate directly with other energy generating systems on their boats, such as solar and electric generators, thus decreasing fossil fuel dependence.
If there is wind, there is power to be harvested! A wind turbine can produce power during the day and all through the night, so if the wind generator blades are spinning, the wind generator will be producing power generating 1 – 3 kWh. Darko Kapelina is interested in ideas and systems geared at improving regenerative sailing.

Why Not Solar?

Darko Kapelina says the bottom line is that most electrical and propulsion systems on sailboats are powered by fossil-fueled engines which are not efficient and the cost to power them up will only continue to increase.  So, how do we resolve this challenge?  We move towards getting the necessary energy from other sources such as solar, wind and electrical propulsion, all with an eye towards improving regenerative systems by minimizing, and ultimately eliminating, the need for fossil fuel or even shore power.

So why not solar? Solar alone will not do it, but it can move us closer to a complete solution.  Questions immediately surface about the type of solar panels and if the panels are installed flat or if they align perpendicular to the sun’s movement through the day.  These are all important questions, but the answers depend on the sailor’s overall goal.  However, the crux of the matter is that on a sunny day solar panels on a sailboat have the capacity to generate 1 – 6 kWh.  Not great but it’s an excellent start!

This is a radical improvement in the cost of producing energy.  More and more advances in solar technology can be leveraged to maximize gains in efficiency.  Darko Kapelina is interested in ideas and systems geared at improving regenerative sailing.

Why burn fossil fuels when we can sail using the wind, the sun and electric energy?