I had the opportunity to attend a press conference yesterday for Solar Impulse Across America at Moffett Field outside San Francisco. Solar Impulse is a Swiss-built solar powered airplane envisioned by Bertrand Piccard and co-founder André Borschberg. Solar Impulse has already set several records in Europe, including the first solar-powered night flight, staying aloft for over 26 hours.
The airplane is a "flying laboratory" of advanced materials and design, including lightweight copolymers and carbon fiber sheets that are lighter than paper. The wings are covered with more than 11,000 solar cells, each only 135 microns thick. Much of the technology will lead to breakthroughs in wind turbine, electric car, and many other "everyday" applications.
But behind all the innovation is what Piccard calls the "true pioneering spirit" - breaking away from old ideas of what is and is not possible and envisioning a new world. Solar Impulse is not about carrying passengers but conveying a message of a better future.