Aircraft Power Sources

Fri Jul 21, 2000 12:26 am

I have another question. Why don't airlines make solar-powered airplanes? If they did, they would never need gas, and they are close to the sun, so it would be easy to get sunlight.
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RE: Aircraft Power Sources

Fri Jul 21, 2000 12:35 am

Even assuming unlimited quatities of electricity were available, it's not a viable power source...too heavy compared to the power they produce. Oh, maybe you'll see some research ultralights or 'Gossamer Condor' type plane with an electric motor just to prove a theory but you won't see a 500 mile-an-hour 100 passenger plane powered by electricity. Not now or this lifetime...Maybe.
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RE: Aircraft Power Sources

Fri Jul 21, 2000 12:45 am

If you have any solar cell technology that effective available, I'd love to see it so I can avoid any more $300+ elctric bills and $1.75 a gallon gasoline!  

Hey, wait a minute... What if it was *cloudy* or flying was done at *night*? NKP is right, as the weight of making pure-electric technology for for airline-class aircraft (batteries, etc.) would be an insurmountable obstacle...

ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
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RE: Aircraft Power Sources

Fri Jul 21, 2000 3:29 am

Three questions:

1. Let's say that a jet is totally covered with solar panels operating at their theoretical maximum. Would they even then be able to provide enough continuous power to keep a heavy jet in the air, or even more importantly allow it to take off?

2. Is it possible for an electric turbine to match for example a GE90 in thrust?

3. Wouldn't this create one hell of a magnetic field and disturb onboard systems way too much?

RE: Aircraft Power Sources

Fri Jul 21, 2000 3:48 am

Actually this is not a very bad idea, but for now, unfeasable. Yes there's weight ration's and magentic fields to consider, bu hear me out.
Say sometime in the future NASA develops an extremely light solar cell that has a self-contained magnetic field. It's all very scientific so I won't go on to discuss how it'd be done. That would be step one.
Now, completely replace the fuel tanks in the aircraft with two high-powered electricity cells. Apply the solar cells to the wing an tail surfaces, but not to the aircraft body itself. This will reduce or eliminate any effects the cells would have to cockpit instruments. Furthermore, use a percentage of the jet exhast to heat a storage area of water to become steam, and tunr another generator, which would supply power to the two main cells in the body. Plus use of the GEN function on the engines would help as well.
Now, challenge GE to develop an all-electric engine requiring no fuel and a high amount of power.
Put this all together and you have a hybrid plane. It's all-electric, powered by two enourmous cells (batteries), and is recharged by solar energy, jet exhaust, and engine turbine power.
What you have is a plane that recharges itself, runs partially off solar energy, and entirely off electrical energy. This works well below the cloud level and at night too because you have a battery as a main power source, and in that situation you still have the exhaust and GEN to recharge the cell.
It's a wonderful idea!!!!
I commend you!!!
And think, this might be the way we fly in a few decades, who knows?  

Tropical Skies-
Fly to new horizons

RE: Aircraft Power Sources

Fri Jul 21, 2000 4:18 am

On a related note, Aerovironment had built an unmanned solar powered aircraft that flew to 80,000ft. Check out the following site
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RE: Aircraft Power Sources

Fri Jul 21, 2000 4:43 am

Yeah, how about a hybrid plane that uses conventional fuel engines for takeoff and possibly landing and then switches to solar power while crusing above the clouds?
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Fri Jul 21, 2000 11:43 pm

Sorry if I was unclear. I was worried that the engines would produce a huge magnetic field, not the panels.

And, BTW. Your idea of using the exhaust to produce power would waste more energy than it recovers, as would the GEN function. Stuff like this is used when converting chemical energy to mechanical to electrical. What you were suggesting was converting electrical energy to mechanical to electrical. What's the use of that?  

(If I was unclear, my point simply stated is that generators all WASTE energy and are used only when you need to convert it from one type to another.)