Saturday, February 02, 2008

Turtle Airships: Great Ideas, All Possible

I received a comment to my last entry on Airships (wow! Someone read my blog! ^_^), pointing out an airship currently in development: The Turtle airship.

The designer has some excellent ideas, particularly making a solid hulled craft (and hence increasing it's strength), changing the design for better aerodynamics (increasing lift without ballast), and making the whole thing solar powered. Is it possible? Certainly!

The first problem would be solar panels on the hull. Big problem, because the current weight of solar panels is such that the airship would quickly become top-heavy. Is there a way around this? Yes. Ascent Solar has been developing a photovoltaics that are thin and as such quite useful in making a solid hulled airship. Because it can envelope the entire hull (at least the top half), no matter where you are the sunlight can be used to generate power.

Next, the lift. Helium is the number one lifting gas, since the Hindenburg disaster and the death off Hydrogen airships. But is hydrogen really dead? I don't think so. Perhaps, if an airship were to have a series of chambers, with helium closest to the cabin, with a central hydrogen bag, you would be back in business. Remember, hydrogen will not burst into flames without being in the presence of oxygen and a catalyst. Surround it with Helium, and Hydrogen remains quite inert.

Suppose, for instance, your buoyancy is still heavier than air with the outer chambers filled with helium. This allows for the loading and unloading of the ship without worrying about ballast. Then, when you are ready to take off, you fill the center chamber with compressed hydrogen. Your lift is increased (because uncompressed hydrogen is lighter than compressed hydrogen), and as such you are now lighter than air. This dynamic buoyancy would make it possible to fly everywhere, and not require water as your ballast (though I do think it's a great idea! ^_^).

Finally, the solid hull. This is the one thing that I have little experience in, as I'm not an engineer (wasted my time with History, I'm afraid). But I had guessed that carbon fiber and graphite would make a strong, rigid hull that would withstand the elements quite well. Add on the Ascent Solar panels, and you have an airship that would have enough strength to withstand some pretty decent storms, I would imagine. Anyone correct me if I'm wrong.

So, needless to say, I'm quite impressed with the ideas behind the Turtle airship. I'm looking forward to the first flight, to see whether or not the golden age of airships can truly come to fruition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is any synergy to Hydrogen fuel cells for propulsion and hydrogen gas for lift in combination with solor to make this work for long distance economical transport ?