Last July, it visited a primary school in Bristol, UK
The world's first solar-powered hot air balloon took its maiden voyage in August 2015. Since then, it is provided for lifts over Bristolâ€™s landscape and takes part in the International Balloon Fiesta organized in the area annually. Last July, it visited the Hannah More Primary School in Bristol, where pupils had the chance to learn about how renewable energy can power global transport â€” even a hot air balloon. The balloon, owned by Bristol Energy and developed by Cameron Balloons, is technically a hybrid because it is fitted with propane burners as a backup in case the sun hides behind the clouds when the balloon is up in the air.
â€œItâ€™s this kind of very simple science that gets people, young and old, excited about green energy,â€ said Simon Proctor, Bristol Energyâ€™s Origination Manager. â€œWe have incredibly powerful natural resources that can heat our homes, power our cars, and fly hot air balloons too! Itâ€™s now crucial that we support renewable energy, so we can create a sustainable energy future for the next generation.â€
Making the hot air balloon
It took a lot of trial and error to make this solar-powered balloon work, spending 200 man-hours and occupying ten people, including an adviser, designer and chief engineer. Made of lightweight polyurethane coated nylon, the balloon settled on a design with two materials on each hemisphere. The black side faces the sun, collecting heat, while for the shady side a metalized, double-layer material is used to trap it inside. The fabrics were thinner than usual, as the craft needed to be extra light and it creates less lift than usual, because the sun only heats the inside air to about 40 Â°C (104 Â°F).