Keep an eye out for the first manned test flights of a solar airplane (above) later this year. Cells covering 240 square yards of wing and tail surface will power the 3,300-pound plane, called the Solar Impulse. Designing the control systems has been challenging: The ultra-lightweight Impulse will face more turbulence than ordinary airplanes, so simulation software is less reliable. “We are in an unexplored flying domain,” says André Borschberg, Solar Impulse’s CEO. The goal is to fly the plane around the world in 2011. 

A Canadian company is designing a screw-in light bulb it claims will be cheaper and longer lasting than CFLs and LEDs. Like LEDs, Group IV Semiconductor’s technology uses a solid substance to generate light, requiring less energy than traditional bulbs, which use filaments or gases. “It’s silicon-based, and silicon costs at least 20 times less than LED materials,” says business development director Howard Tweddle. “This should lead to much more affordable products and much faster adoption.” The company expects the technology to hit the market in a couple of years. (Photo:

This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Not your average airplane or lightbulb
Two ambitious inventions to look out for.