News - February 7, 2024

Bertrand Piccard unveils Climate Impulse

Written by Solar Impulse Foundation 2 min read

Born of the heritage of the Solar Impulse Foundation and taking it further, Climate Impulse wants to showcase concrete technologies that can revolutionise the aviation industry, and the mobility sector in general.

After achieving the first circumnavigations of the globe in a balloon and more recently in a solar aircraft, Swiss explorer Bertrand Piccard unveils his new emission-free project: a green hydrogen-powered airplane to fly non-stop around the Earth, demonstrating how concrete solutions can help build a cleaner and more efficient world. With science company Syensqo as the main partner of this technological, environmental and human adventure, the limits of innovation will be pushed back to enable the development of the airplane, built in France by engineer and navigator Raphaël Dinelli. 

Climate Impulse plans to complete in 2028 the first non-stop round-the-world-flight in a green hydrogen powered airplane, with science company Syensqo as main partner. After two years of research, development and design supported by Airbus, Daher, Capgemini and with the participation of Ariane Group, the construction of the aircraft has begun and will last two years under the direction of Raphaël Dinelli, composite engineer and navigator. Following another two years of testing, this unique aircraft will attempt to fly non-stop all around the Equator with pilots Bertrand Piccard and Raphaël Dinelli. A climate action adventure aiming to restore confidence in technological solutions for the common good. 

More than a flight, Climate Impulse is an environmental flagship aiming to play its part in revolutionizing the aviation sector and beyond, showing the way to global sustainability through innovative solutions in areas traditionally considered difficult to decarbonize. 

Climate Impulse represents a technological breakthrough. Beside the production of green hydrogen from renewable energies, and its use through fuel cells to feed electric motors, the major challenge lies in maintaining liquid hydrogen at -253°C during an estimated nine days of flight. This will require revolutionary innovations in the creation of adapted thermal tanks, opening new horizons in aviation technology. The collaboration with Syensqo will enable Climate Impulse to develop these cutting-edge systems. 

Climate Impulse, a new project in a lineage of sustainability exploration 

The latest adventure of Bertrand Piccard was Solar Impulse, the unprecedented round-the-world flight in a solar-powered airplane in 2016. An achievement with an environmental purpose, directly in line with those of his grandfather Auguste, the physician who invented the pressurized capsule to explore the stratosphere, and his father Jacques, the oceanographer who took his bathyscaphe to the bottom of the Mariana trench. 

The day of its announcement in 2004, Solar Impulse was a symbol based on the intuition that renewable energies and cleantech solutions could achieve environmental objectives considered to be impossible. Since then, more than 1’500 efficient solutions have been identified and labeled by the Solar Impulse Foundation, certifying their environmental benefit and economic viability. 

Born of this heritage and taking it further, Climate Impulse wants to showcase concrete technologies that can revolutionize the aviation industry, and the mobility sector in general. 

“In this world full of eco-anxiety, we need to restore hope and stimulate action by demonstrating disruptive solutions that lead to sustainable progress. More than flying around the world with a hydrogen airplane, Climate Impulse will explore new ways of thinking and acting to promote a better quality of life,” says Bertrand Piccard. “Efficient solutions will unite people from citizens and environmental activists to political and business leaders, shifting the narrative from sacrifice and fear to enthusiasm and action”. 

A challenge made possible by Syensqo’s expertise and technological know-how 

Syensqo (formerly part of Solvay) was the first and main technological partner to team up with Bertrand Piccard nearly 20 years ago with the Solar Impulse flight. This time again, Syensqo will put its extensive expertise and innovation power at the service of the adventure by enabling the manufacture of the plane with tailor made materials. 

Syensqo’s composite materials, films and additives will be crucial to the manufacturing of the entire structure of the hydrogen aircraft, its fuselage to the wings and hydrogen tanks. It will provide lightness, alongside mechanical and thermal properties. When it comes to green hydrogen, the company’s high-performance materials (for Proton Exchange Membranes and binders for electrodes of the fuel cell) will be key enablers to confer exceptionally high-power density and efficiency, also allowing more compact design of the plane. 

“We are thrilled to be part of this ultimate flight, a non-stop zero emission round the world fueled by green hydrogen. Our 13.200 Syensqo’ employees are proud to be part of this human, environmental and scientific adventure, showcasing the power of their sustainable innovations that will drive carbon neutrality for our customers and advance humanity” says Ilham Kadri, CEO at Syensqo. 

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Written by Solar Impulse Foundation on February 7, 2024

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