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Solar-Powered Plane Faces the Human Factor

Publication Date: 
June 17, 2013
Source: 
The New York Times
Author: 
MATTHEW L. WALD

Professor Dan Reicher is cited in this New York Times article on a new solar-powered plane, and how foam, used in the structure of the plane, is being used even more commonly as an insulator. 

CHANTILLY, Va. — Nearing the end of a cross-continent flight powered by solar electricity, the designers of the Solar Impulse airplane are looking at the challenge of flying around the globe but focusing on the weak spot in their cutting-edge technological effort: human frailty.

The solution, they say, is more technology.

Solar Impulse stands out among airplanes partly because its range is limited not by fuel but the stamina of the pilot.

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One innovation is the foam used in the structure of the plane, which has unusually small pores. Dan Reicher, a former assistant secretary of energy now at Stanford Law School, said that the foam had already found its way into refrigerators, because it is a better insulator.