Honoring John Langford

If one stays with a line of work long enough, one will accomplish mighty things.  That’s certainly true for John Langford, Chief Executive Officer for Aurora Flight Sciences.  His decades-long career, start his decades-long career, starting at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and culminating his company partnering with Boeing, has explored almost every aeronautical discipline.  For this perseverance, he was awarded the 2019 Personal Aircraft Design Academy (PADA) Trophy.

Aurora Flight Sciences’ Chief Technology Officer, Tom Clancy, was on hand at the 2019 Sustainable Aviation Symposium at UC Berkeley to accept the award for Langford.  Clancy has worked with Langford since their MIT days, building and flying several human-powered aircraft, including the 1974 Daedalus.  That aircraft flew the 74 miles from Crete to Sicily over the Mediterranean Sea, still the human-powered distance record.  He and Langford went on to design, build, and fly an astonishing range of aircraft.

Putting solar cells on Daedalus gave them a pilotless airplane that could stay up for extended periods.    This led to larger machines with even greater endurance.  Here we get to see Dr. Langford and Clancy in the same video.

Aurora delved into not only advanced aerodynamics, but instrumentation and sensing systems that enabled flight in blind flight conditions that truly are blind.

Expanding into the entire flight range for fixed-wing aircraft, Aurora managed totally-pilot-free trips for its Centaur test vehicle.  The video expands on other Aurora projects.

Dr. Langford’s career has been distinguished by many awards, including a DARPA honor for the company’s Lightning Strike advanced Vertical TakeOff and Landing (VTOL) craft in 2016.  A bit like a Lilium on steroids, Lightning Strike will combine jump starts with high speed.

Designs are certainly not limited to VTOL, though, extending into large airliners with advanced aerodynamics, such as Aurora’s D8 “Double Bubble, seen here at the end of longer blog entry on future airliners.

Aurora’s D8 “Double Bubble” concept could lower drag, increase payload and save fuel

Dr. Langford’s long and fruitful career, highlighting his ability to find novel and creative solutions to virtually every type of aeronautical problem, was well presented by Mr. Clancy, himself an innovator of note.  This is indeed a great addition to PADA’s decades of recognizing designers of accomplishment and merit.


In battery making, recipes for electrolytes play an important part of the whole.  In a new formula whipped up by Zhengzhou University, Tsinghua University and Stanford University, Lithium (Li), Lanthanum (La), Zirconium (Zr), Tantalum (Ta), and Oxygen (O) form a ceramic tube as the battery’s electrolyte.  This tube is centered in new solid state Lithium Sulfur and Lithium Selenium batteries.

Researchers filled that tube with a liquid lithium electrode, and immersed the tube in a bath of carbon black and liquid selenium or sulfur in a stainless steel container.

Cylinder within cylinder layout may obviate use of more conventional manufacturing methods

The team’s paper, “High Energy-Density Solid Electrolyte-Based Liquid Li-S and Li-Se Batteries,” published in the October 15 edition of Joule, explains the new batteries should be capable of delivering energy densities of around 2,600 Watt-hours per kilogram for the lithium-sulfur chemistry and 1,160 Wh/kg. for lithium-selenium.   Currently, researchers have achieve 500 Wh/kg, double the best Li packs today.  This can be achieved at cost of $41 per kilowatt-hour for the Li-Se battery and $15 per kW-hr for the sulfur-based version.

The abstract for the paper reads: “Lithium-sulfur (Li-S) and Lithium-selenium (Li-Se) batteries are considered as promising candidates for next-generation battery technologies, as they have high energy density and low cost. However, due to the use of a solid Li-metal anode and a liquid organic electrolyte, the current Li-S and Li-Se batteries face several issues in terms of Coulombic efficiency and cycling stability, which seriously impeded their development. Here, we report solid-electrolyte-based liquid Li-S and Li-Se (SELL-S and SELL-Se in short) batteries. The batteries use a Li 6.4La 3Zr 1.4Ta 0.6O 12 (LLZTO) ceramic tube as electrolyte and work at temperatures higher than the melting point of Li; thus, polysulfide or polyselenide shuttle effects and Li dendrite growth are effectively prevented, and high energy density, together with high stability, fast charge/discharge capability, high Coulombic efficiency, and high energy efficiency, can be achieved. The SELL-S and SELL-Se batteries provide broader platforms for constructing high-energy, high-power, long-lifetime, and low-cost energy storage.”

Differential transfer of materials during lithiation may contribute to high energy density

The combination of low cost and high output could be a real winner in the commercial market, and would open the way for large-scale energy storage for wind and solar power.  Now only at the laboratory stage, the promising technology makes one hope this can be quickly scaled up and adopted by significant users.

Batteries in which lithium is a major factor may become costly to produce in the United States, which is ninth in the world’s use of the metal for batteries.  Spreading that cost among other, cheaper materials might help.

According to Fortune magazine, a ton of lithium (battery grade) would bring $20,000 in 2016Sulfur tends to fluctuate in price, ranging from $30 per ton to $480 for medical grade material. Selenium would not be a cost saver, averaging around $48,000 per ton in 2016.  Carbon black is a bargain at $93 per ton despite recent price increases.  Lanthanum, a rare-earth mineral, can be had for $1,000 to $1,200 per ton, although laboratory grades sell for much more.  High quality Zirconium oxide can sell for anywhere from $1.5 to $70 per kilogram.  Most costly, tantalum, reputed to be a conflict metal sold for !51,800 per ton in 2018.

It must take minute amounts of certain of these materials to enable low costs for SELL-S and SELL-Se batteries.  We hope researchers can find ways manufacture such cells on an equally economic basis.


The Villiger Traveler Updated

Urs Villiger flew his Traveler TR230 four-seat touring craft about 10 years ago.  He started revising the Cessna-like vehicle two years ago, turning it into a more aerodynamic and economical machine.  His changes turned the Traveler into a hybrid aircraft and relocated the propeller to the vertical stabilizer.

Travler on static display at Smart Flyer Challenge in Grenchen., Switzerland

Reflecting professor Dipl.-Ing. Rudolf Voit-Nitschmann’s configurations he developed for Icare II and  e-Genius, the low-drag placement of the drive motor near the top of the vertical fin confines the added drag caused by the propeller’s acceleration of air over the aircraft’s skin to the top-most part of the fin and rudder.  Compare the area exposed to propeller blast to that of a conventional nose-mounted engine “tractor” type aircraft.

Icare II (foreground) and e-Genius were both products of Rudolf Voit-Nitschman’s mentoring and students at Stuttgart University.  e-Genius was second-place winner in 2011 Green Flight Challenge

On static display at this September’s Smart Flyer Challenge in Grenchen, Switzerland, the newly revised Traveler showed a streamlined nose fairing that holds a gas turbine (reported from a Panavia Tornado fighter’s auxiliary power unit (APU) attached to the UQM motor/generator.

Traveler has turbine reportedly from Panavia Tornado jet fighter coupled with UGM motor/generator

That unit charges the craft’s batteries with up to 100 kilowatts of continuous power output.

Batteries in turn energize the tail-mounted motor that swings a five-blade MT propeller.  The motor is being developed to produce 200 kilowatts (268 horsepower) and weigh only 30 kilograms (66 pounds).

Traveler promises to be quiet and efficient with the Mühlbauer five-blade propeller . The concept was first used in the German e-Genius.  Photo: Peter Brotschi

All this and more is taking place at Evolaris, a Swiss company that does aircraft structures, batteries, power electronics and batteries and even software – just about everything needed for creating electric airplanes.

Two water-cooled power inverters, housed in carbon fiber and aluminum, control the motor.  The redundant units enhance reliability.

Evolaris-devised intelligent software regulates the whole system, communicating between individual components and displaying relevant information for the pilot.  In the meantime, Evolaris engineers are making sure everything works a

Drop Test Fahrwerk

Drop-Test Fahrwerk: abgehakt! Trotz heftigem Herzklopfen beim Auslösen: die Rumpfstruktur und das Fahrwerk haben den Drop-Test ohne Schaden überstanden – nächste Baustelle: Belastungstest Rumpf!

Posted by Traveller Hybrid on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The drop test proves the limits of Traveler’s landing gear and its ability to withstand a hard landing. 

Der ganze Klappenantrieb ist komplet im Flügel integriert. Das Ein- und Ausfahren erfolgt über 2 Spindeln, welche durch eine Kette angetrieben werden.

Posted by Traveller Hybrid on Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Flap operation is smooth, providing additional wing area for slow landings or enhanced takeoffs.

Specifications show the 12 meter wingspan machine will weight 1,450 kilograms (3,190 pounds) fully loaded, including 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of batteries.  The motor will produce 160 kilowatts (214 hp.) with a peak output of 220 kW (295 hp.).  Traveler will cruise at 220 kilometers per hour (136.4 mph) for up to an hour and 30 minutes.

The latter figure is with batteries only.  The range extender should extend that, living up to its name.


An electric ultralight developer brought some hopeful notes to the Sustainable Aviation Symposium audience at the University of California Berkeley.  Gabriel DeVault is the powertrain development specialist for ZeroAvia, bringing hydrogen power to regional air commuting.  He does a lot of commuting in his own electric aircraft, showing that one doesn’t need huge investments in aircraft and infrastructure to enjoy green flight.

The Paul MacCready Honorary Lecture: Doing More with Less, Right Now!

An Aerospace Engineer and EV systems architect, Gabriel was a founding member of Zero Motorcycles, running R&D for the world’s largest and most successful electric motorcycle company.  He now works for ZeroAvia, a firm in Hollister, California working with a hydrogen-powered electric Piper Malibu as the first step toward developing clean aerial commuters.

NASA’s Hybrid Electric Integrated Systems Testbed (HEIST) is an experimental wing initially mounted on a specially modified truck. It is used for a series of research projects intended to integrate complex electric propulsion systems.

He has worked for JOBY Aviation and designed the HEIST (Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed), a Peterbuilt semi pulling a rolling wind tunnel with the high-mounted X-57 Maxwell wing and power system helping pull things along.  The rig was taken to speeds of 73 mph with the motors spinning.

Even though he left Zero Motorcycles years ago, he saw the potential for using the power system for that vehicle in motivating small aircraft.  His Thundergull became the “prototype” for conversion from using a Rotax two-stroke engine for power to using a Zero Motorcycle motor, controller, and battery pack.  He noted in his talk that a “donor cycle” can be found for $10,000 to $15,000.  With the cost of Mark Beierle’s kit for an e-Gull, the total remains below $40,000.

Gabriel shows us his electric Thundergull with a thorough review of its salient features.  In his talk, he explained that cruising at 55 knots (63 mph) consumed about eight to nine kilowatts (10.72 to 12 horsepower) per hour.  This is borne out by two friends who report similar performance with their eGulls.

In this video, we see another pilot making a takeoff from Frazier Lake (Califoria’s) airport, demonstrating its high rate of climb and ability to hop off a wet grass runway.

Gabriel showed several videos of the segments of his long flight from his home base in Watsonville to Frazier Lake, but the video below shows his commute from his home field to a nearby factory on the coast.

Gabiel DeVault’s other work with streamlined bicycles and ultralight aircraft show his ability to live up to the “doing more with less” ethos that Paul MacCready lived by.  This definitely merited its place as the penultimate presentation at this year’s SAS.  Now your editor wonders if he will replace his Zero batteries with hydrogen fuel cells.


Following a trip to the best Sustainable Aviation Symposium ever in Berkeley, California, and a tour of the W.A.A.A.M. (Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum) in Hood River, Oregon over the weekend to see their World War II training gliders, you editor is about to get back to reporting on what he’s seen and heard.  Be patient, because we have lots of great stories to share, starting tomorrow.


What had been a Piper J-3 Cub was converted to a three-seat training glider, the two students taking the place of the engine for weight distribution.


Heaviside – Kittyhawk’s Latest

Kittyhawk, a bay area firm possessed of wildly creative talent, has crafted the Flyer in 2017, the Cora in 2018, and just announced the Heaviside, a cross-country cruiser named for a physics and electronics genius.  Its predecessors go back further, to the JobyMonarch, a single-seat, eight-motor design that made it to the construction stage.  That aircraft was based on Windward Performance’s Duckhawk sailplane, a high performance machine that made the most of its sleek lines.

Joby had several projects going at the time, including an energy-generating kite business that merged with Makani.  Carmel deAmicis does a good job of synthesizing a long series of inventions that help lead to Heaviside.  “After Joby Energy succeeded at creating airborne vessels that could generate energy from wind, it merged with Makani, a wind power company which Google recently bought. Before the merger, a group of engineers decided to use the technology developed on the turbines to build an aircraft that could hover like a helicopter and fly distances efficiently like a plane. Thus, the incubator (and its first startup, Joby Aviation) was born.

Makani’s kite-llike wind turbines show possible inspiration from Monarch, cross-pollination to Heaviside

Alphabet, Google, and Kittyhawk

Sebastian Thrun and Damon Vander Lind, a physicist and electrical engineer, head the Heaviside effort for Alphabet, the Google-owned tech giant.  “Vander Lind, who earned his pilot’s license, commutes part of the way to work in a single-piston engine aircraft he fixed up. He takes a bicycle for the remainder of the journey. The physicist and electrical engineer, who was a lead engineer at the Alphabet-owned airborne wind turbine company Makani Power, notes that his commute, while fun, is hardly practical.”


Heaviside would make commuting, even to the remote hills where test flying takes place, a more practical reality.  Its six rotors mounted on the 20-foot wings and paired on the canard, “allow it to take off and land vertically before shifting to horizontal flight, negating the need for a runway. Kitty Hawk says that the aircraft is capable of traveling from San Francisco to San Jose in 15 minutes, a distance of around 30 miles (48 km), which would make for an average speed of 120 mph (192 km/h).”

Similarities to Joby’s Monarch and the electricity-generating kites show some of Heaviside’s design heritage, and the option to manually pilot this little machine would probably add a great deal of joy to the prospect.

Heaviside propeller blades are wide and distinctly shaped – perhaps a clue to its quiet operation

TechCrunch reports the average commute takes 53 minutes, according to the U. S. Census Bureau.  Heaviside would reduce a ground-bound 231 hours per year to a mere 21 hours of much more enjoyable transit.  Its low noise signature would allow neighbors to enjoy watching it depart and fly over, even though it registers 80 dBa briefly on liftoff before reducing its audible presence to a low 38 dBa.

The team continues work on fault and failure-proofing the craft, and has enlisted Mike Huerta, who served as FAA Administrator from 2013 to 2018, as an adviser on regulatory matters.

For What Is Heaviside Named ?

For whom, actually.  Oliver Heaviside was an English polymath, according to the American Physical Society, who gave us the Heaviside Step Function. Used in “control theory and signal processing, … it represents a signal that switches on at a specified time and stays on indefinitely.”


We would love to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide as a threat to our climate with an ever-decreasing timeline for accomplishing that task.  University of Illinois at Chicago and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made inroads into creating a carbon dioxide battery that uses CO2 as an energy storage component.

Amin Salehi-Khojin, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC’s College of Engineering, explains, “Lithium-carbon dioxide batteries have been attractive for a long time, but in practice, we have been unable to get one that is truly efficient until now.”

A 7X Battery

The incentive to use CO2 comes from lithium-carbon dioxide batteries having a specific energy density more than seven times greater than conventional lithium-ion cells.  Unfortunately, until now, Li-CO2 batteries haven’t been rechargeable – at least for a reasonable number of cycles.

Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have demonstrated, “lithium-carbon dioxide batteries can be designed to operate in a fully rechargeable manner, and they have successfully tested a lithium-carbon dioxide battery prototype running up to 500 consecutive cycles of charge/recharge processes.”

Their findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Salehi Khojin and his team (20 listed authors for the paper) found a way to avoid carbon buildup on the battery’s catalyst, which invariably leads to battery failure.

Alireza Ahmadiparidari, first author of the paper and a UIC College of Engineering graduate student, explained, “The accumulation of carbon not only blocks the active sites of the catalyst and prevents carbon dioxide diffusion, but also triggers electrolyte decomposition in a charged state.”

Salehi-Khojin and his colleagues used molybdenum disulfide as a cathode catalyst combined with a hybrid electrolyte to help incorporate carbon in the cycling process.

That combination of materials produces a single multi-component composite of products rather than separate products, making recycling more efficient.

Salehi-Khojin noted, “Our unique combination of materials helps make the first carbon-neutral lithium carbon dioxide battery with much more efficiency and long-lasting cycle life, which will enable it to be used in advanced energy storage systems.”

U of I Chicago researchers tried dozens of catalysts to achieve working Li-CO2 battery. Cars would have much-improved range with new cells

Dr. Larry Curtiss’ group at Argonne National Lab performed theoretical calculations used to deduce a mechanism for the reversible operation of the battery.

Leily Majidi, Mohammad Asadi, Amir Chamaani, Jacob Jokisaari, Sina Rastegar, Sahra Hemmat, Baharak Sayahpour, Pedram Abbasi and Robert Klie of UIC; Robert Warburton and Jeffrey Greeley of Purdue University; and Rajeev Assary, Badri Narayanan, Paul Redfern, Anh Ngo, Marton Voros and Larry Curtis of Argonne National Laboratory are co-authors on the paper.

This research was supported, in part, by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the National Science Foundation, grant NSF-DMREF award No. 1729420.

Earlier Efforts at MIT

MIT researchers had found another way to make a lithium anode and carbon electrode into a working battery.  After pre-activating carbon dioxide in an amine solution, it is, “Then combined with another liquid electrolyte, and used in the battery with a carbon cathode and a lithium anode.”

A scanning electron microscope image of the carbon cathode of MIT’s new lithium-carbon dioxide battery. Over time carbon dioxide builds up in a solid form on the surface, as compared to the original surface state (inset)

Betar Gallant, an author of the study explained, “These two chemistries — aqueous amines and nonaqueous battery electrolytes — are not normally used together, but we found that their combination imparts new and interesting behaviors that can increase the discharge voltage and allow for sustained conversion of carbon dioxide.”

The MIT researchers did not achieve the high outputs as those at U of I and did not realize the large number of charge-discharge cycles. MIT sees success at some future point, though.  Often, cross-pollination between research projects leads to even greater results.  We wish both teams well and look forward to progress reports.

The research was published in the journal Joule.


Scylax E10: Electric Flight Over the North Sea

A joint venture between the East Frisian FLN airline (FLN FRISIA-Luftverkehr GmbH Norddeich) and Munich aircraft manufacturer Scylax GmbH has helped expand the success of two “clean-sheet” designs, the E6 and E10.  Both are promised to China Blue Airlines, and their first-time sale to a German-based airline will help ensure economies of scale for production.

E10 Islandhopper over off-shore wind farm

Short Runs with no Range Anxiety

FLN already operates 10 BN-2 Norman Britten Islanders and a few Cessna 172s and 182s.  The Islanders would be replaced over time by E10s.  As one can imagine, The North Sea and limited airports make special demands on aircraft, including being able to take off and land in 300 meters (984 feet) and manage 40 knot (46 mph) crosswinds , as depicted in the videos of Norman Britten Islanders landing on the airport at Nordern.  Electric craft should have even better performance.

Founded in 1969 to supplement shipping traffic to the East Frisian islands of Juist and Norderney, FLN Frisia-Luftverkehr GmbH includes the shortest distance scheduled airline flight between mainland Nordern and island Juist.  It takes a little over five minutes for the roughly eight mile trip – half of the time taxiing – in an Islander.  It should be even quicker in the E6 or E10 with their 300 kilometer per hour (186 mph) cruising speed.  Each electric aircraft should be able to make several round trips between rechargings, considering their 300 kilometer range.

Scylax and the E10

Scylax owners Calin Gologan and  Rosario De Luca announced their partnership with FLN.  “Together with FLN we redefined the aircraft in order to fulfill the airliner requirements:

  • “ short takeoff and landing.
  • “ landing with strong cross wind.
  • “ robust construction with fix landing gear.
  • “ low noise.”

The partners add their initial offering will fly 300 kilometer legs emission free, with no CO2 and very little noise.  In ten years, with advanced battery technology, range should increase to 600 kilometers (372 miles).

E10 Islandhopper crossing typical landscape for its short flights

Certification plans include at three years out, “a demonstrator which will be in the first phase used by Frisia for Ireland  freight , then complete full EASA CS23 certification in [a] max[imum of] 8 Years from now.”  The partners see that as a realistic certification goal, and hope to reach that goal sooner.


  • cruising speed: 300 km/hr (186 mph).
  • range:300 km (186 miles).
  • Start and landing distance: under 300 meters (984 feet).
  • limit speed Flaps extended (VSO): 50 knots (57.5 mph).
  • landing up to 40 knots (46 mph) side wind possible.
  • full carbon composite structure.
  • twin engine (2 X 260 kW or 348.5 horsepower).
  • 10 Seats ( including pilot).
  • seat abreast: Min. 800 mm (31.5 inches).
  • cabin width:1.35 meters (53.14 inches).

The small cabin won’t be a big impediment to enjoying quick crossings at low altitude.  Electric motors from Siemens and Magnix will meet the power requirements.

Gologan’s earlier designs, the E1 and E2, showed his ability to make light, strong structure.  The E1 had a 100 kilogram (220 pound) airframe, with 100 kilograms of batteries hauling a 100 kilogram pilot). The all-up weight of 300 kilograms (660 pounds) was near U. S. ultralight specifications, but able to cruise over the Alps.  This ability to produce high performance from minimum materials makes battery-powered flight a reality.

(Editor’s Note: Calin Gologan advises that “China Blue was a Name given by Zhonglan .”  Issues with the Zhonglan contract led to that firm withdrawing from the project.)


Technion is an interdisciplinary technology institution based in Haifa, Israel.  Two years ago, it began promoting its unique approach to splitting water to extract hydrogen.

One of the researchers on the project won a three-minute thesis contest with her quick and eloquent explanation of photoelectric chemical water splitting, key to the research team’s approach.

Point of Sale Delivery

The Jerusalem Post reported, “Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new method for the production of hydrogen from water that uses solar energy in a centralized way at the point of sale, such as a gasoline station for electric cars fueled by the gas.” (Editor’s italics)

The article explained, “This eliminates the need for ‘solar farms’ whose hydrogen has to be trucked a long distance, making the process cost effective, safe and efficient.”

Technion researchers Dr. Hen Dotan , Avigail Landman , Prof. Avner Rothschild and Prof. Gideon Grader. (photo credit: Chen Galili)

Published two years ago in Nature Materials, the study was led by Avigail Landman, a doctoral student in the Nancy & Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program and Dr. Hen Dotan from the electrochemical materials and devices lab.

Landman is working on her doctorate under the guidance of Professor Avner Rothschild from the faculty of materials science and engineering, and Prof. Gideon Grader, dean of the faculty of chemical engineering.

A new paper in Nature Energy last week reiterates the researchers’ assertions and provides additional data.   The abstract notes the low voltages required and the efficiency achieved in the process.

“Electrolytic hydrogen production faces technological challenges to improve its efficiency, economic value and potential for global integration. In conventional water electrolysis, the water oxidation and reduction reactions are coupled in both time and space, as they occur simultaneously at an anode and a cathode in the same cell. This introduces challenges, such as product separation, and sets strict constraints on material selection and process conditions. Here, we decouple these reactions by dividing the process into two steps: an electrochemical step that reduces water at the cathode and oxidizes the anode, followed by a spontaneous chemical step that is driven faster at higher temperature, which reduces the anode back to its initial state by oxidizing water. This enables overall water splitting at average cell voltages of 1.44–1.60 V with nominal current densities of 10–200 mA cm−2 in a membrane-free, two-electrode cell. This allows us to produce hydrogen at low voltages in a simple, cyclic process with high efficiency, robustness, safety and scale-up potential.”

Catalyzing or using membranes to split water tends to require large amounts to electricity.  Technion’s low voltages would eliminate a great deal of the pollutants caused in some forms of electricity generation.  Making hydrogen (and oxygen) from water eliminates methods requiring natural gas reduction.

Schematic of alkaline water electrolysis and the E-TAC water-splitting process. a, In alkaline water electrolysis, which typically takes place at elevated temperatures (50–80 °C), the OER (Oxygen Evolution Reaction) and HER (Hydrogen Evolution Reaction) are coupled in both time and space, as they occur simultaneously at an anode and a cathode, which are placed together in the same cell. A diaphragm or anion exchange membrane separates the anode and cathode compartments and prevents O2/H2 crossover. b, E-TAC water splitting proceeds in two consecutive steps. An electrochemical step (left) reduces water by the conventional HER at the cathode, liberating hydroxide ions (OH–) that oxidize a nickel hydroxide (Ni(OH)2) anode into nickel oxyhydroxide (NiOOH). This step is followed by a chemical step (right), wherein the NiOOH anode reacts with water to spontaneously produce oxygen.
The first (electrochemical) reaction occurs at ambient temperature (~25 °C), whereas the second (chemical) reaction proceeds at elevated temperatures (~95 °C) for the optimum rate of reaction. The first and second reactions sum up to the overall water-splitting reaction, 2H2O → 2H2 + O2. Dotan et al.

Landman explained, “According to our cost estimate, our method could successfully compete with existing water splitting methods and serve as a cheap and safe platform for the production of hydrogen.”

Technion’s alchemy separates hydrogen and oxygen; with the oxygen collected from millions of photoelectricalchemical (PEC) cells.  Hydrogen is collected from another set of cells.  Perhaps the weak link in this chain, the hydrogen in a safely transportable form is then moved to the point of sale.  Will the transport vehicles be powered by clean energy, or will pipelines deliver through existing networks?  Using carbon-based fuels to move clean H2 around would be a detriment to the program, it would seem.

Geographic separation between the solar farm and the point of sale makes use of a pair of auxiliary nickel hydroxide electrodes and a metal wire connecting them.  Somehow (way above your editor’s volunteer pay grade), this releases the hydrogen for the customer’s fuel tank.

But that’s not all. As stated, the vision of the Technion researchers is geographic separation between the sites where the oxygen and hydrogen are produced: at one site, there will be a solar farm that collects the sun’s energy and produces oxygen, while hydrogen is produced in a centralized manner at distributed sites, miles away. According to the researchers, instead of transporting compressed hydrogen from the production site to the sales point, it will only be necessary  the auxiliary electrodes at the two sites.  Economic calculations performed in collaboration with research fellows from Evonik Creavis GmbH and the Institute of Solar Research at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), indicate the potential for significant savings in the setup and operating costs of hydrogen production.

Many thanks to Howard Handelman for alerting your editor to this news.


A Boxy (Motor) Glider That Delivers

Chip Yates used the same UQM motor on his record-breaking Pikes Peak and Bonneville Salt Flats motorcycle and his modified Long-Eze aircraft (Long-ESA for Electric Speed and Altitude).  He planned an ekectric trans-Atlantic flight using an audacious concept for mid-air recharging.  A bit quiet for the last several years, Chip has come up with a boxy glider, a load carrier that will, at some point, use the same kind of UQM motor with which he set so many records.

The Silent Arrow GD-2000

Capable of hauling 907 kilograms (2,000 pounds) to front-line troops, or emergency supplies to otherwise inaccessible disaster zones, the GD-2000 Silent Arrow allows delivery of heavy cargo from a range of aircraft and helicopters.

Yates Electrospace lists the following specifications for the GD-2000.

  • Gross Weight: 2,000lbs (907 kg)
  • -Cargo Weight: 1,631lbs (740 kg)
  • Cargo Volume: 26cu/ft (.75 cu/m)
  • Glide Ratio: 8.4:1
  • Stall Speed @1,000lbs: 62kts, @2,000lbs: 92kts
  • Standoff: 40 miles
  • Logistics: 28ft wingspan (4 spring-deployed wings) stowed in 2ft x 2ft x 8ft fuselage

Displayed at the Defense & Security Equipment International (DSEI) show in London, the Silent Arrow already has contractual commitments for 3,020 aircraft.

On display in London, the GD-2000 has found customers in 34 nations

Yates Aerospace describes its high-volume delivery vehicle as, “…Essentially a 2.43m (8ft)-long rectangular box with two-sets of attachable wings, a nose cone and tail assembly. The wings, nose cone and tail can be packed inside the aircraft’s fuselage for shipping. The UAV has a cargo volume of .75cb m (26cb ft).”

The video shows Silent Arrow GD-1000, an earlier version of the company’s glider product, prepared for a helicopter drop and then successfully deployed.

It’s a versatile box, capable of being air-dropped from a Boeing C-17, Lockheed Martin C-130, Sikorsky CH-53, Bell Boeing V-22, or from side-door aircraft or from below a helicopter using a sling.

Its glide ratio of 8.4:1 (a little less than a Piper Cub) means it can be safely dropped from 1,500 feet above ground level to up to 25,000 feet mean sea level, giving a standoff range of up to 64.4 kilometers (40 miles).

Yates Electrospace is not authorized to disclose the foreign military launch customer’s identity, but can disclose other orders from are US Air Force Special Operations Command and US Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The US Marine Corps (USMC) in 2017 also awarded the company a demonstration contract for a smaller, 454kg (1,000lb) gross weight, glider UAV.

Chip Yates, Chief Executive Officer of his firm, explains that even though he and his company are located in southern California, the “Glider Disposable 2000lb. Gross” is built in the United Kingdom by the MEL Group.  “The MEL Group proved to be the best from a pool of possible contract manufacturers, including US-based companies.  They are handling AS9100, UK MoD, DAOS, etc., and are amazing partners.”

Yates Electrospace has found a great niche market in 34 countries and, “…Plans to expand its product line to include single-use, reusable, scaled-down, scaled-up, unpowered gliders and electrically powered cargo UAVs. And, in addition to military customers, the company is targeting the humanitarian and disaster relief markets. Yates Electrospace is competing against Airborne Systems’ Joint Precision Airdrop System, a GPS-guided cargo parachute that the USMC has ordered.”

Testing has been ongoing since 2017 at Oregon’s Pendleton Unpiloted Aerial System (UAS) Test Range.  In future, longer deployment distances made possible with a UQM 135 kilowatt motor will make launches even safer for aircrews, who will be well out of the range of enemy fire.  That’s essentially the same motor Chip used on record motorcycle and aircraft runs, and may be the basis for record sales of the boxy delivery craft.