On October 19, 30 cars will be jostling for position at the start of the 7th World Solar Challenge in Darwin, Australia. After winning in 2001 with Nuna I, the Nuon Solar Team, from the Netherlands, will be bidding to retain their title. The strong team of twelve from Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam are determined to beat the world record and try to average 100 km/h, compared to 91.81 km/h in 2001. Nuna II uses advanced space technology, provided to the team through ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme, enabling the car to reach a theoretical top speed of over 170 km/h.
The aerodynamically optimised outer shell consists of space-age reinforced plastics to keep it light and strong. The main body is made from reinforced carbon fibre and aramide, a material used in satellites, but nowadays also in high-performance equipment such as bulletproof vests.
The car’s shell is covered with the best triple-junction gallium arsenide solar cells, developed for satellites. The same cells are being tested on the SMART-1 satellite launched to the Moon on 28 September this year. Nuna II also carries Maximum Power Point Trackers, small devices that guarantee an optimal balance between power from the battery and the solar cells, even in less favourable situations like shade and cloud.
"Will they win? I am sure they have a great chance," says Wubbo Ockels, the first Dutch astronaut and today a professor at Delft University. "They have worked hard and with great dedication."
In pursuit of their goal, the student team have collected an impressive line-up of supporters. ESA has provided them not only with engineering support through its Technology Transfer Programme, but with general support from its Education Office. Dutch energy company Nuon is the main sponsor.
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