Forces and Motion

The vacuum airship

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

In the 1670s, following an idea proposed by Roger Bacon, Francesco Lana de Trezi designed an airship that generated lift from evacuated copper spheres. Lana de Trezi’s aircraft consisted of a boat hull with a mast, sail and four copper spheres that would have their air pumped out. Unfortunately for Lana de Trezi, it is estimated that spheres made of copper light enough to float (requiring a thickness of 0.1 mm) would collapse when evacuated. The O-Boot project in Italy is attempting to use modern materials to make Lana de Trezi’s dream a reality.


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