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Around the world to champion clean technologies
The flying laboratory
What freedom lies in flying – especially for those who dare to risk the impossible. The best example is the Solar Impulse mission – the solar aircraft that flew around the world without fuel. It demonstrated the tremendous potential for progress in the field of clean technologies, such as the ultra-lightweight and insulating materials Covestro developed for the plane. The insights gained from Solar Impulse have been analyzed and are now merged in a new project: 1,000 ideas for a sustainable future. Because what those pioneers of the air achieved will benefit all people, even on the ground.

Getting started with full innovative force

1,000 ideas for a sustainable future

The flight around the world without fuel was just the start – the partnership between Covestro and the Solar Impulse Foundation has now been elevated to the next level. Under the name “World Alliance for Efficient Solutions,” a new initiative wants to present 1,000 ideas for a more sustainable future at the UN climate conference in December 2018. “Today there are already thousands of marketable solutions that could promote economic growth and preserve nature at the same time. However, they are often hidden in start-ups or research laboratories,” states Bertrand Piccard, pilot of Solar Impulse and founder of the initiative. Still, only few know that those solutions are just waiting to be applied in a profitable way. An association of more than 450 companies aims to spread this awareness.


Covestro is one of the founding members, supporting the network with both financial and personnel resources: for example, we are providing some of the experts evaluating all suggestions regarding their contribution to production, application, market compatibility, and sustainability.

The growth of Covestro will also be based on innovations focused on sustainability in the future. This is why we are not only supporting the initiative, but supplementing these 1,000 ideas by presenting our own suggestions on how environmentally friendly innovations can contribute to a brighter future.

“We and Bertrand Piccard are both fueled by the same belief: solutions for a sustainable society are not just ecologically necessary but also make sense in terms of economics.”
Richard Northcote, Chief Sustainability Officer at Covestro

From the sky into production:

How an airplane improves refrigerators

The new materials created for Solar Impulse help to improve many everyday products. The performance of the cockpit insulation, for example, is ten percent higher than the current standard, because the pores in the foam are 40 percent smaller. Covestro researchers managed this trick by reducing the size of the pores down to the micrometer scale. Another advantage: The polyurethane foam, with its very low density of less than 40 kilograms per cubic meter, is ultra-lightweight. The entire cockpit of the solar aircraft can be lifted with just one hand.

Solar Impulse Graphic

The project is also fueling new technologies on the ground. The new thermal insulation significantly improves the performance of refrigeration systems. Appliance manufacturers are highly interested in the new Baytherm® Microcell foam system to further enhance the energy efficiency of their refrigerators. In a related area, a functioning cold chain is vital in developing countries, where only half of the food produced reaches consumers on average – the rest spoils. Ultra-efficient insulating materials also protect buildings against high and low temperatures. They help to save the energy otherwise consumed by heating and cooling systems. Taking a look at the numbers illustrates how significant the effect can be: 40 percent of worldwide energy consumption is attributable to buildings. They are also responsible for about one-third of the climate-damaging greenhouse gases, such as CO2. Polyurethane foam is considered to be the best industrially available insulating material. Covestro develops and produces the components used to manufacture it. This insulating material saves 70 times more energy during its lifetime than is required for its production.

More information

Innovations based on Solar Impulse
Polyurethane products by Covestro

Covestro aligns its research projects with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals to make the world a brighter place.

High-end material for extreme cases

Solar Impulse – a milestone of technology

A virtually impossible mission: The solar aircraft had to be as lightweight and strong as possible to offset the weight of the lithium-ion batteries that powered the engines at night. At the same time, effective insulation was required to ensure the survival of the pilot inside the small cockpit, because extreme conditions prevailed on the journey: At night, temperatures could drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius outside, and skyrocket to plus 40 degrees Celsius during the day. This was the right job for the polyurethane and polycarbonate materials from Covestro, and they performed outstandingly.


  • The single-seat cockpit has no heating or air-conditioning system. The cockpit shell therefore is made of the extremely high-performance polyurethane insulating material Baytherm® Microcell, developed by Covestro. It is perfectly suited to making refrigerators even more efficient.

  • The cockpit glazing is made of the high-performance polycarbonate Makrolon®. This Covestro material is transparent, shatter resistant, a good insulator, and weighs much less than glass or metal. All reasons why developers are also increasingly using the material in the automotive industry.

  • The raw materials for the Solar Impulse’s silvery skin are also from Covestro. It covers large portions of the aircraft and protects its surface. Covestro also supplied the adhesive components that hold the textile fabric in place under the wings.

More information

Solar Impulse website
Solar Impulse videos
Solar Impulse on the Covestro website

More stories

Our commitment to clean technologies is only one of the areas in which Covestro is pushing boundaries. Follow the links and discover more about what we’re doing to make the world a brighter place!
#EfficientWindPower
Covestro helps to make wind power more economical.
#CO2Dreams
Covestro is transforming the climate killer CO2 into a useful raw material.
#CleanerProduction

Why our understanding of sustainability does not end at the factory gates.

#PushingBoundaries
An overview of all highlight stories.
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