The next advance in green power may be a goofy-looking glob of floating helium carrying wind turbines that generate electricity and can go anywhere. The Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS), a collaboration of Magenn Power Inc., Kanata, Ottawa, Canada, and engineered textiles provider Atkins & Pearce Inc., Covington, Ky., is lighter than air, rotates around a horizontal axis to catch the breeze, and floats 1,000 feet above ground. Holding it in place is a liquid crystal polymer fiber, Vectran®, the core of a braided cable wrapped in copper to carry electrical current from the turbines for use, storage or sale.
Kuraray America Inc., Fort Mill, S.C., produces Vectran, which was selected from a range of high-performance aramid fibers. “We knew from our experiences with Vectran that it would work because of its high strength, low weight, abrasion resistance when other yarns move against it, as well as its temperature and chemical stability,” says Jeramie Lawson, A&P new product development. Steel cables were too heavy; other materials stretched or didn’t work well with the copper needed to conduct electricity. The hybrid tether containing Vectran can hold as much as 20,000 pounds in place.
Magenn Power now plans to use Vectran in the fabric of the helium aircraft. The fiber also has been used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for airbags, bridle cables, space suits and inflatable spacecraft for (what else?) the Mars Spirit and Opportunity Rover missions. For more information about Vectran, visit www.vectranfiber.com.