Eco Innovation

Explorer Bertrand Piccard to circumnavigate the world in hydrogen airplane

8th February 2024
Paige West

In a bold stride towards revolutionising the future of aviation, Swiss explorer Bertrand Piccard recently announced the inception of Climate Impulse, an ambitious project aiming to circumnavigate the globe non-stop in a green hydrogen-powered airplane.

This initiative marks a significant milestone in sustainable aviation, showcasing the potential of green hydrogen as a viable fuel source.

Bertrand Piccard, renowned for his historical circumnavigations of the Earth in both a balloon and a solar-powered aircraft, has once again taken the helm of innovation by introducing an emission-free project that not only highlights the feasibility of green hydrogen in aviation but also serves as a flagship for climate action. Partnering with Syensqo, a science company, this project promises to push the boundaries of technological innovation, environmental sustainability, and human endeavour.

Set to take off in 2028, Climate Impulse aims to complete the first non-stop flight around the world powered by green hydrogen. This journey is supported by Airbus, Daher, Capgemini, and Ariane Group, with the aircraft's construction already underway in France under the guidance of Raphaël Dinelli, a distinguished composite engineer and navigator.

Beyond the marvel of flight, Climate Impulse embodies a vision for a cleaner, more efficient world. It champions the use of green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy sources, and utilised through fuel cells to power electric motors. A key challenge lies in maintaining the hydrogen in liquid form at -253°C for an estimated nine days of flight, necessitating innovative solutions in thermal tank design – a challenge that Syensqo is well-equipped to tackle.

The Climate Impulse project continues the legacy of sustainability exploration initiated by Piccard's previous venture, Solar Impulse, which in 2016 became the first solar-powered airplane to fly around the world. Born from a lineage of pioneers, including his grandfather Auguste and father Jacques Piccard, Bertrand Piccard's ventures have consistently aimed at demonstrating that technological advancements can address environmental challenges previously deemed insurmountable.

With over 1,500 efficient solutions identified and labelled by the Solar Impulse Foundation, Climate Impulse seeks to further demonstrate that concrete technologies can significantly impact the aviation industry and mobility sector at large. Bertrand Piccard emphasised the importance of restoring hope and stimulating action through disruptive solutions that pave the way for sustainable progress.

Syensqo, at the forefront of this adventure, brings its expertise and innovative capabilities to the table. Having partnered with Piccard nearly two decades ago on the Solar Impulse flight, the company's composite materials, films, and additives are crucial for the aircraft's construction, providing the necessary lightness, mechanical, and thermal properties required for the journey. Additionally, Syensqo's high-performance materials for Proton Exchange Membranes and binders for fuel cell electrodes are key to achieving high power density and efficiency, essential for the aircraft's design.

“We are thrilled to be part of this ultimate flight, a non-stop zero emission round the world fuelled by green hydrogen. Our 13,200 Syensqo’ employees are proud to be part of this human, environmental and scientific adventure, showcasing the power of their sustainable innovations that will drive carbon neutrality for our customers and advance humanity,” says Ilham Kadri, CEO at Syensqo.

“In this world full of eco-anxiety, we need to restore hope and stimulate action by demonstrating disruptive solutions that lead to sustainable progress. More than flying around the world with a hydrogen airplane, Climate Impulse will explore new ways of thinking and acting to promote a better quality of life,” says Bertrand Piccard. “Efficient solutions will unite people from citizens and environmental activists to political and business leaders, shifting the narrative from sacrifice and fear to enthusiasm and action.”

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