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Truly zero-emissions airplane fueled by nothing but algae and sunlight

Solar energy

(NaturalNews) Engineers have said that the day of carbon-free, unlimited energy is coming, and a French company just took a step toward that goal.

The company says it plans to fly a "zero-emission" plane from Paris to New York City, powered by nothing more than sunlight and some algae. Founder and pilot Raphael Dinelli will travel for more than 60 hours in June in an ultra-light electric aircraft that is biofuel- and sunlight-powered, the UK's Daily Mail reported.

If the trans-Atlantic flight is successful, the company, Laboratoire Ocean Vital, plans to build an even larger commercial version that will be able to carry passengers on the 3,625-mile journey.

The plane, called Eraole, is definitely a hybrid craft, with about 55 percent of its engine power coming from a special fuel the company developed using micro-algae. In addition, solar cells that line the aircraft's wings will provide another 25 percent of its power, while the wind – gliding – provides the remaining 20 percent. In addition, the company says, takeoffs and landings will be further aided by two lithium batteries.

The plane has been under development for seven years, and the company is promising that it will have zero carbon emissions. That said, most biofuels do actually produce some greenhouse gases, though far below what a conventional jet engine produces.

Long flight but history will be made

An average airliner's round-trip between Europe and the U.S. adds about two to three tons of carbon dioxide to every passenger's so-called "carbon footprint," the Daily Mail reported. Overall, air travel is believed to create about 11 percent of CO2 emissions from transportation, and about 2 percent of overall world emissions.

However, although the Eraole's journey is going to be more environmentally friendly, the trip will nevertheless last about 10 times longer than a commercial flight. In addition, it will be twice as long as Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis Paris-to-New York trip some 90 years ago, which lasted only about 30.5 hours.

That means that Dinelli will have to spend two-and-a-half days in the compact single-seat aircraft, which does not have autopilot or room for a co-pilot. He therefore won't be able to sleep, and there is little room to move his legs.

What's more, the small aircraft's cabin is not even pressurized, so he'll have about 30 percent less oxygen to breathe than usual, all of which means there is some danger involved in making the flight.

The Daily Mail reports further:

"Eraole's flight bid comes one year after a totally solar-power craft - Swiss experimental plane Solar Impulse - broke the world record for longest nonstop solo flight, just short of 120 hours.

"The plane, which has been grounded in Hawaii since last year, will try to complete global circumnavigation next April."

What if we could apply solar 'panels' over existing products?

Speaking of breakthrough energy technology, Silicon Valley startup Ubiquitous Energy is manufacturing the world's first transparent solar cells, a technology that holds the promise of greatly expanding the reach of solar power, Bloomberg News reported.

The "panels" are really an invisible film that can be placed on any surface to generate power, which could lead to cell phones, tablets and other devices that never run out of battery life, so to speak. They could even be affixed to the windows of skyscrapers, thereby creating massive banks of solar panels that could power entire buildings.

"There's really only one renewable energy source that could power the whole world, today, and that's solar energy," says the narrator in a Bloomberg Business video report. "There's more than enough solar energy hitting the earth to power the earth many times over."

The problem with the expansion of solar energy, thus far, has been that it has been limited to large, opaque panels that take up lots of space. The Ubiquitous Energy product seeks to solve that problem with a technology that essentially fits over existing structures.

(Photo credit: Laboratoire Ocean Vital)






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