The world’s largest solar-powered boat has docked on the banks of the Seine River, its final port of call after a three-month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to study how the Gulf Stream and climate change could influence each other. The 102-foot-long Turanor PlanetSolar catamaran looks like one of Darth Vader’s TIE Fighters turned on its side.
Starting from Miami in June, University of Geneva scientists sailed up the U.S. eastern seaboard, then across the Atlantic, taking water and air measurements that should allow them to better understand the complex interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere. The scientists focused on aerosols, fine particles emitted at the ocean’s surface that can influence climate, said Martin Beniston, the expedition’s chief climatologist and head of the University of Geneva’s Institute for Environmental Sciences. “Our first surprise when we started looking at the data is the quantity of the aerosols that are actually injected into the atmosphere by the ocean, which means we might have underestimated the climatic role of the oceans via aerosols,” Beniston said. The $20 million PlanetSolar’s deck is covered with photovoltaic panels that charge a gigantic lithium ion battery.