Hot air balloons have long fueled the imagination and now Brisbane-based Solartran has conceived of a way to harness the serene floating forms to generate significant amounts of renewable energy as well. Developed by Ian Edmonds, the “balloon engine” uses solar energy to drive a giant hot air balloon as a “piston”, producing as much as 50Kw – enough energy to power 10 homes!

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Ian Edmonds’ balloon engine works by first trapping solar energy in a greenhouse, and then using this heated air to inflate a giant balloon. As the ballon rises it pulls on an earthbound tether, spinning a generator to produce electricity. Once the balloon has ascended to its apex of 3 kilometers it automatically release its air and descends, giving the entire process a similar arc to the workings of a two-stroke engine.

Hot air balloons have always captivated us as an incredible mode of transportation, and we’re excited to hear of their application in generating renewable energy. Edmonds expects the cost of his balloon engines to be on par with that of wind power, making it a great system for places where the sun is hot but the winds seldom blow.

+ Solartran

Via News Scientist

Lead photo by Floet2008