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NOTE: THIS TEXT CONSTITUTES PRIOR BLIMP ART.
Okay, there are many solar blimp fantasies out there. But this one is going to work, I can feel it!
The sphelar solar cell [link] is great, but hasn't found that many applications so far. The tiny spheres can be embedded into flexible substrates and
capture light from all directions.
The manufacturer is thinking of embedding the cells into jewellery and gadgets. They hope to get it to work as a curtain type of semi-transparent solar cell, for use in buildings. No success so far. That's a bit sad.
The good thing is that these cells can capture reflective light and thus can be used in all kinds of shapes and directions [link].
So here comes the single seater semi-transparent, solar + human powered electric blimp. It might be the utmost best application for these solar cells ever.
1. find a strong transparent envelope material that keeps helium neatly inside (exists, I think) (occasionally we might have to add some helium, once every few weeks/months - I'm no expert).
2. take two sheets of this material for the envelope and put the sphelar solar cells inside of it.
3. now we have the basics: a large surface area that captures solar energy all the time; unlike with other solar cells, these capture sunlight no matter which direction your blimp is flying in.
The added weight can be compensated by making the blimp a few cubic meters bigger.
4. now add a battery, charger and controller (basically a bit like an electric scooter).
5. add 250 watts of pedal power (like an electric bicycle).
6. for the rotors, we take a configuration similar to the Zeppy [link], do check out the vids there.
And that's it!
I can imagine a rental service with this, located at all the hot tourism spots in the world, wind-still beaches, solar-blimp safaris, blimp-pedal Nile cruises, solar-pedalled eco-trips above the Amazon rainforest, etc...! Maybe even treks that last several days, with our bigger version that allows you to carry a backpack, etc...!!
Sphelar solar cells
Great idea, not that many applications so far. [django, Jan 14 2008]
Interview with Mr Sphelar + good pics
Neat ideas, but the blimp must be the neatest!! [django, Jan 14 2008]
Nice single-seater pedal powered blimp [django, Jan 14 2008]
Polician tries out the Zeppy: easy to fly
Antwerp politician Ludo Van Campenhout tried the Zeppy, as a campaign stunt. Judging from the video and from press clippings (I'm from Belgium) it's easy to fly the blimp. So this makes our solar-pedal powered blimp probably a commercial hit with vast crowds!! [django, Jan 14 2008]
||I don't know of anything that's going to retain all of your helium. I know Mylar balloons will last much longer than latex, but even Mylar goes flat eventually. Its chief advantage is that it isn't elastic, and thus the pressure on the gas inside goes down - then leakage drops to nearly nothing. I've seen a limp Mylar balloon float for over a month.
||With a transparent top cover, and a darkened inner envelope, perhaps you could have a solar-heated lifting gas, to further reduce your need for lifting gases. Of course, that lets out night flights on the cheap, and might be a Bad Thing if the sun is blocked by clouds in the middle of your flight, but hey.
||The best helium retaining membrane I ever saw was glass - a brilliant glassblowing artist was making the most ethereal glass balloons, filled with helium. They weren't spherical at all and frankly not especially attractive, but the guy said the average glass balloon would stay up for about four years.
||You mention the color black; wouldn't the millions of tiny black spheres contribute to heating the helium inside of the envelope, thereby producing a bit of extra lift?
||nothing short of a lead wall can perfectly contain helium. The molecules are very small so they leak out in tiny amounts everywhere.
||//Not Again? Yes again!// and ...//solar blimp fantasies//
These ships work, and have been around for years.
The truly astonishing aspect of these floating platform
flight modes, the original aviation, is that there hasnt yet
been backyard development following on from the cluster
balloon/cloud hopper/zeppy, white dwarf etc to the
point of some figured out functional manouverable mingle
of helium balloon and hot air, however created, that gets
on a leading edge of efficiency regarding cost, safety,
speed and distance and has everyone trying to better it,
as per the sudden supercedence of the rogolla wing and
the sudden emergence of more efficient wing forms in
the 70's when hanggliding began. The skyacht is the
nearest, working from a hot air balloon to an airship.The
technical requirements for hangliders were far greater
and wrong plan meant death. There is a good argument
that man wasnt meant for the instantaneous full body
response of the bird for winged flight. Heresy in the
winged flight age.On a clear still day in a powerline free
environment anyone could fly one of these. Solar electric
as you suggest above, could change things for the airship.