Air Liquide has revealed the first successful tests of a new on-board oxygen system for aviation pilots, developed as part of the company’s official support of the Solar Impulse project.

The system, which emerged from solutions developed for fighter pilots, enables the use of oxygen present in the atmosphere by separating it from other components and thereby satisfying the respiratory needs of the pilot without interruption.

Generating oxygen on-board has the advantage of providing a solution that optimises the mass of the oxygen system, while guaranteeing an unlimited oxygen supply.

A test session was conducted with Solar Impulse pilots last April to validate both the performances and the correct functioning at high altitudes of a new on-board oxygen generating system developed by Air Liquide.

This session was carried out in the presence of the Solar Impulse technical team with the support of Air Liquide experts, in a hypobaric chamber made available by the Swiss Aeromedical Center, which reproduces the actual conditions the pilot will face while flying at high altitudes.

These first tests consolidate Air Liquide’s experience in the area of on-board oxygen generating systems for pilots, crew members and passengers of the aircraft of today and tomorrow.

Additional testing (for endurance and environmental qualification) is now underway, the aim of which is to qualify the equipment for its potential subsequent installation on-board Solar Impulse 2.

Solar Impulse test

Source: Air Liquide

Continuous oxygen supply

Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard (President) and André Borschberg (CEO) are the founders, pilots, and life force behind Solar Impulse, the first aircraft able to fly day and night without fuel or polluting emissions – the aircraft with which they will attempt the first solar flight around the world in 2015.

The revolutionary single-seater aircraft, made of carbon fibre, has a 72m wingspan (larger than that of the Boeing 747-8l) for a weighs of just 2,300 kg, equivalent to that of a car (1,600 kg).

In order to carry out its round-the-world trip with stopovers – planned for 2015 – Solar Impulse must be able to make repeated day / night cycles where the airplane climbs to an altitude of 8,500m during the day. As the airplane’s cockpit is not pressurised, the pilot must have a continuous oxygen supply for the duration of the flight phase that is above 3,000m.

Air Liquide advanced Business & Technologies has developed a cutting-edge expertise in aeronautics. As an official supporter of Solar Impulse (Pilot life support partner), Air Liquide has access to this project’s technological development platform for the rollout of an innovative technological solution specially adapted to the demands of civil aviation.