Efficient energy consumption has taken to the friendly skies with a little help from the sun—and pharma. The Solar Impulse, a Swiss solar-powered airplane, is attempting to make its longest flight—from Switzerland to Morocco with a layover in Spain—in a 48-hour intercontinental test flight piloted by project originators Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg.
Bayer MaterialScience became an official partner of the project in 2010, according to a May 24, 2012, press release. Since then, more than two dozen scientists at the company’s laboratories in Leverkusen, Dormagen, and Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany, have been tasked with brainstorming ideas for lightweight construction and energy efficiency.
The trip is set to coincide with the commencement of construction in Morocco’s Ouarzazate region to build the world’s largest solar power plant. The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) will welcome Piccard and Borschberg after the landing. MASEN is leading the implementation of the integrated Moroccan Solar Plan, which aims at developing a minimum power capacity of 2000 megawatts by 2020.
As Borschberg pointed out in the press release, “This corresponds fully with the goals we had set ourselves, in terms of distance and flight duration. Flying as far as this, powered only by solar energy, will be excellent training for the round-the-world trip planned for 2014.”
Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience, said in the release, “Solar Impulse is a real challenge—in particular in regard to lightweight materials. Through the use of innovative materials, we can help find solutions for energy efficiency and ‘clean’ energy.”
R&D partnerships like this can serve as an example to provide insight to help pharmaceutical companies re-evaluate the ways to go about manufacturing and processing practices in order to save on energy costs.
“We are full of admiration for the vision of this pioneering project, which clearly demonstrates that the clean technologies we are promoting with Solar Impulse also have a role to play in everyday life,” said Piccard in the release.
This partnership between a pharmaceutical giant and high-profile transportation certainly isn’t anything new. Last September, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) paired up with the McLaren Group—well known for Formula 1 automobile racing—in an R&D agreement under which McLaren is sharing its capabilities in engineering, technology, analytics, and strategy modeling to help improve performance at GSK’s global business until, initially, 2016 (see PharmTech Talk blog entry, “Fast Pharma – The Best of British”).