Solar Impulse: They made it around the world, optimization helped them!
The Swiss, solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 (SI2) has covered more than 40,000km and completed the first-ever round-the-world flight with no fuel.
After over ten years of calculations, simulations, prototyping and testing, SI2 shows the huge potential of new technologies for energy efficiency and renewable energy production. The airplane was developed by a multi-disciplinary team of more than 80 specialists, supported by 100 advisors.
Simulation technology was crucial for this incredible effort and many tools and methodologies had to be developed specifically for the project.
To be able to handle design objectives and constraints like reducing the plane weight, obtaining flexible and light solar cells and multi-functional encapsulation, maximize the transmittance level at high angle of incidence, maintain the physical characteristics different temperature ranges, etc. the Solar Impulse team was assisted by a group of researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne (Switzerland). They provided scientific advice and human resources that embrace more than 10 different research domains in order to focus on the scientific challenges mentioned: lightweight materials; storage and transformation of energy and new standards for the man-machine interfaces.
Among the software technology used during the project, modeFRONTIER acted as a key tool to bring together the domain-specific tools needed. Prof. Prud’homme led the development of an integrated environment revolving around modeFRONTIER: they created a dynamic website that enabled the result publishing and interaction with other groups. Also it made possible to use of computing resources available on campus from mainframes, to laptops. Several optimization projects were then run using this advanced framework and enhancing the overall design of the plane.