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Perlan II: a glider for the study of ozone hole

Perlan, Close-Up Engineering


The current environmental issues necessitates experiments that show the chemical reactions due to the ozone hole and global warming. You have to reach the stratosphere to understand the reasons that lead one of three oxygen atoms that form ozone to react with CFCs remaining attached to the molecules of chlorine and fluorine for over 50 years because these reactions occur here.


The jet planes can not fly so high because their engines fail to create the impetus to keep them useful in flight, because here the air has a density equal to 2% of the air we breathe at sea level, so the project Perlan II was born, with which entrepreneurs and scientists seek to reach an altitude of 25,000 feet thanks to a glider, which is an airplane supported in flight through the dynamic reaction of the air against the wing surfaces, taking advantage of the winds and currents.

The project is based on tests carried out by the project’s founder Einar Enevoldson for years as a pilot at high altitudes. Thanks to the financial support of the late adventurer Steve Fossett, the Perlan glider reached altitude record for gliders: 15,461 meters, in 2006. Now the group Airbus, thanks to its potentiality, decided to collaborate on the project to provide technical and financial support.


When Perlan II take off from Argentina in 2015, it will rely first stratospheric wave and then the polar vortex. When the winds of the Pacific Ocean hit the mountain range of the Andes, they rear up at speeds above 10 meters per second creating waves of air, thanks to which Perlan II will reach approximately 18,000 meters.

To climb up to stratospheric clouds, the glider will have to take advantage of huge tornadoes called polar vortex. They are due to jet streams that are established for the strong temperature difference between the equatorial and polar air: the hot equatorial air failing to penetrate the cold air rotates around it. The ozone hole occurs inside the vortex that is located above the South Pole.


Perlan II, currently under construction, will be made ​​of carbon fiber, with a wingspan of 25 feet but it will weigh only 770 pounds, including crew, reaching maximum altitude for a manned glider.


Precisely for this reason it will be as light as possible but also durable to withstand the extreme stratospheric conditions such as thin air, low pressure and significantly below zero temperatures, making it difficult to breathe, even with oxygen tanks.

How to allow human life inside the glider?
Unlike the planes that allow the pressurization of the cabin and an adequate temperature inside thanks to the engines, in this case we must design special suits, which are light and not bulky because of the small space inside the cabin, in which even parachutes for landing, parachutes for emergency, scientific instruments, oxygen cylinders and CO2 scrubbers will have to find a place.


Image credits: aerokurier.de