Solar Impulse Plane’s Departure Marks Solvay’s Innovative Technical Contributions

As the sun-powered Solar Impulse aircraft begins its flight “Across America,” it not only carries lightweight, high-strength and energy-efficient products from Solvay, it also carries the imaginations and technical skills of scores of Solvay researchers, engineers and technicians whose innovations help to make the flight possible.

Solar Impulse is the world’s first solar-powered airplane capable of flying day and night without fossil fuel. Special materials and expertise from Solvay optimize the aircraft’s energy chain and contribute to the plane’s remarkably light, yet sturdy, structure.

Today’s Solar Impulse departure from Moffett Airfield of NASA’s Ames Research Center here marks another milestone in the plane’s history as well as Solvay’s innovative technical contributions to the plane’s evolution over nearly 10 years. In addition to Solvay’s lightweight, durable plastics on board, Solvay also provides Solar Impulse with battery components, lubricants, insulation and solar panel film coatings.

In fact, thousands of plane components are made from 11 different Solvay products. Solvay teams also provided testing and technical analyses during the plane’s development. Solvay is a founding partner of the Solar Impulse consortium that also includes companies with expertise in solar technologies, aviation, engineering, electronics, mechanics and controls.

As a global producer of chemicals and advanced materials, Solvay recognizes the contributions---and potential contributions---of researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs whose innovations convert abstract ideas into practical applications. At a series of forums at Moffett Airfield and nearby earlier this month, Solvay hosted inventors, researchers, engineers and venture capitalists who could someday contribute new breakthrough technologies in advanced materials and energy efficiency.

Solvay also participated in technical panel discussions among engineering students at the University of California at Berkeley, and in a Moffett-based webcast conducted with engineering students from Stanford University in nearby Palo Alto, California, and at New York’s Columbia University. Excerpts from April’s Moffett programs can be viewed at

“These are the people whose imaginations, creativity and technical expertise will account for innovations across the research and innovation spectrum,” according to Francine Palmer, head of Solvay’s North American research & innovation program. “Today’s research and innovation breakthroughs, from the laboratory to the airfield, can become tomorrow’s everyday technologies with countless product applications.

“We want to be sure that Solvay is fully engaged with key research institutions, collaborations and the most talented people to continue Solvay’s 150-year tradition of science for society’s benefit around the world.”

After today’s launch of the Solar Impulse mission “Across America,” it will fly across the U.S. and stop for extended visits at several cities including Washington, D.C. in June and New York in July. Shorter, interim stops are planned in Phoenix, Dallas and St. Louis. Live progress of the “Across America” voyage can be followed at


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