June 11, 2019
In the 19th century, the U.K. city of Manchester was a crucial part of the Industrial Revolution — but it’s an hour south, in Stafford, where one of the major revolutions of the 21st century is underway. Sitting in the shadows of an old Saxon castle, Stafford has quietly emerged as a key player in renewable energy technology, where engineers from more than 40 countries are working to slow climate change and increase the share of energy from clean and plentiful sources, like wind and sunshine. Abundant as they may be, there’s a problem with wind and sun — namely, the lack of a clear path between where the electricity is produced and the homes and businesses where it’s needed. “The question is, how do you actually ship the energy?” said Richard Zhang, R&D leader for GE Renewable Energy’s Grid Solutions business in Stafford.
Have volts, will travel: “In a way, it’s analogous to using a train or a truck to ship fuel,” Zhang said. “You can picture the grid as an electricity highway. Our job is to find the most efficient way to get it to your town.” In Stafford, GE owns several factories and engineering facilities developing smart and sturdy technology for high-voltage direct current, or HVDC, power lines. HVDC isn’t a new mode of power transmission, but it’s gained fresh promise as operators attempt to integrate power into the grid from a diverse array of sources — say, an offshore wind farm in Europe’s North Sea or a hydropower plant in the Amazon basin.
Click here to find out how HVDC can help electricity on its journey.
Hollywood loves a sequel, but apparently so does the Danish medical community. Beginning in 1975, the Copenhagen City Heart Study was a groundbreaking project that tracked the long-term cardiovascular health of more than 20,000 adults, yielding invaluable insights into the effects of things like diet and exercise. Now that famous study has been reborn — and its focus is newborns. The Copenhagen Baby Heart Study, launched two years ago, aims to uncover the origins of cardiovascular disease, the cause of one-third of all human deaths. So far, the world’s largest-ever study of newborns has involved 25,000 babies, 150 medical workers, and at least two key machines from GE Healthcare: an advanced ultrasound system and an electrocardiograph.
Baby, I’m amazed: One of those 25,000 newborns is Frigga, who recently accompanied her mother, Kathrine Garbers, on a visit to Herlev Hospital outside Copenhagen — where Frigga, not yet two weeks old, had her heart scanned by a doctoral student. Data collected from babies like Frigga will be searched for evidence of, for instance, mild congenital defects that might otherwise go unnoticed but could have important implications on a person’s health down the road — physical conditions that GE Healthcare’s high-res machines are equipped to capture in some of the tiniest hearts. “The project has only just started,” said Henning Bundgaard, one of the study’s initiators. “We have created a base material that can lead to new knowledge and insight for many decades to come.”
Learn more here about how GE Healthcare technology is helping heart doctors increase their resolution.
Eliza Doolittle notwithstanding, it’s not quite fair to say that the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. A lot of it flows into rivers, collects in reservoirs, and churns through hydroelectric dams, where it flows plainly through the vanes (and blades) of hydroelectric turbines, generating a good chunk of the country’s energy — more than 13% last year. Recognizing hydro’s great potential, the country’s plant operators are getting smarter about how they run their shops. For instance, GE Renewable Energy recently signed a three-year deal with Enel Green Power to monitor up to 3.2 gigawatts of the company’s Spanish hydropower plants with a mix of software and consulting solutions. The idea is that by analyzing the reams of data the plants generate, GE will help EGP squeeze every last drop of efficiency from its assets.
Wouldn’t it be loverly? “The hydropower industry is shifting dramatically to a much more dynamic and data-intensive approach to plant management,” said Pascal Radue, head of GE's Hydro Solutions division. GE Renewable Energy and EGP will work together to create a central bank of data about the operations of EGP’s hydropower fleet in Spain, and also collect and analyze millions of data points from sensors inside individual plants. GE-made software will allow EGP’s engineers to predict and optimize the future operations of everything from the hourly generation of its smallest dam to the availability of its whole hydropower fleet.
GE says its Asset Performance Management software can decrease power failure rates at hydro stations by up to 50% and cut maintenance costs by 10%. Find out how here.
1. Easy Cell
Harvard scientist Amy Wagers found that stem cells don’t need to be removed from the body for gene-editing technology to work — that kind of tweaking can be done on-site.
2. Tough As Steel
Using a newfangled material called composite metal foam, researchers at North Carolina State University designed an armor that can stop bullets as well as steel, but weighs a lot less.
3. Black Hole Mystery
An international collaboration of scientists created the most-detailed-ever simulation of a black hole, solving a long-standing mystery of astrophysics in the process.
Read more about this week’s Coolest Things on Earth here.
— QUOTE OF THE DAY —
“With HVDC, you can send more power over the same transmission line corridor — as much as three times more, in fact.”
— Rafael Bonchang, business development manager at GE Renewable Energy
Quote: GE Reports. Image: GE Renewable Energy.
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