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Concerned about the environmental effects of Hot Air Balloons ?

In the light of and the balance concerns about the environmental effects of hot air balloons (due to the amount of propane gas they burn to heat the air in the envelope and so cause the balloon to raise), we are delighted to hear about this Hot Air Balloon related innovation.

Dr Ian Edmonds of has described the concept and basic theory of reciprocal balloon engines intended to operate to heights of several thousand metres.
The principles described concern use of hot air ballons (preliminary calculations being based on figures for commercially available hot air balloon envelopes) as a means of harnessing renewable energy from the sun. That is, the hot air used to cause the balloon to rise is generated by drawing ambient air through a glazed solar collector that encloses black pipes filled with water. The balloon is then allowed to rise and, in doing so, do work on a generator that remains on the ground. Then, at a pre-decided altitude, a large proportion of the hot air inside the envelope of the balloon is vented and the balloon returns to the ground.
Obviously significant component costs would be involved and the efficiency of the overall "engine" is a key factor. Dr Edmonds' report discusses the possibility of full scale trials which, so far as we know, have not taken place to date (5th Feb. '09).

To be clear - this technology is not proposed as a means of replacing the conventional use of propane gas to fuel pleasure flights in Hot Air Balloons, but as another - as yet undeveloped - idea for increasing use of energy from renewable and so "environmentally friendly" sources. There would, of course be certain constraints on its use, such as the weather (sufficient sun for the solar collector to be effective, and relatively still conditions as high winds would not be appropriate) and location (which obviously could not be too close to an airport, for example). The description we read was particularly concerned with Australia's targets for use of renewable energy, and hence technologies suitable for use in Australia.

Thanks to for Karl Fabricius's post pointing us in the direction of more information about this interesting idea.

Date of this News Page: 5 February 2009.
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