$1m solar hydrofoil takes to the water – video

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Students in Switzerland have developed a million dollar solar hydrofoil based on a Polynesian canoe design.

The 7m long Swiss Solar Boat developed at EPFL will compete in the upcoming Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge and, for the first time, has a pilot on board.

The Challenge has strict safety rules. The batteries in the boat can be charged only by solar energy and can have a maximum storage capacity of 1500 kWh and the electrical system can have a maximum voltage of 52 V. The battery should be installed at least one meter away from the pilot, who must wear an orange helmet and be able to evacuate the boat within five seconds without any form of outside assistance.

A complex asymmetrical single-outrigger design gives the solar hydrofoil a top speed of 30 knots.

“We worked with universities in Fribourg and Yverdon to put on the HydroContest X competition so that students could see their projects through to the end. For several months we wondered how we could take our initiative further, until we learned about the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge,” said Robin Amacher, the Swiss Solar Boat project coordinator and an experienced sailor.

The team is working with Swiss lab CSEM and EPFL’s PV Lab in Neuchâtel to develop solar panels made from monocrystalline silicon. The students also worked with Decision SA, which has already helped build boats for major boat racing teams, as well as North Thin Ply Technology for the carbon fibre materials. “We estimate the boat will cost CHF200,000 ($200,000) over two years, but it’s hard to come up with an exact number. If you factor in all the time spent, the facilities we’re borrowing, the joint ventures we’ve formed and the materials we’re using, the total cost would exceed CHF 1 million,” said Amacher.

“What drew me to the project was the challenge of working on such a large team with people from so many different perspectives and backgrounds – from electrical engineering to microengineering,” said Sébastien Jaffaux, a Master’s student in mechanical engineering.

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