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Titans Of Industry: These Technologies Stand Head And Shoulders Above The Rest

Samantha Shaddock
August 12, 2019
It’s an ever-shrinking world. Thanks to mobile technology, entire libraries’ worth of information fits snugly in our hands. We can shop, bank and work an eight-hour shift without leaving our homes. We attend lectures and hold meetings remotely, and visit with loved ones in distant countries. Never has life for much of the population been more convenient, or more physically confined.
If you don’t look up from time to time, you might miss something big. And in the case of GE technology, that can mean really big. Jet engines that dwarf professional basketball players, wind turbines that churn air high above the raging seas — innovations with a giant footprint, and a giant impact on how industry operates.

So, for a moment, don’t sweat the small stuff. Instead, gawk along with us at these massive feats of engineering.


Long Story Short

 width= Above: Tulips aren't the only thing growing from the Dutch soil. It's also where GE planted a prototype of the Haliade-X 12MW, the world's largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine, whose blades — seen here — are built to withstand gusting winds and stormy seas. Top: Roughly as big as a midsize New York City skyscraper, the mighty Cypress is GE Renewable Energy's largest onshore wind turbine. Images credit: GE Renewable Energy.

When it comes to wind turbine blades, size matters. That’s because the longer the rotor diameter of a wind turbine, the more wind it can catch, and the more wind it can catch, the more energy it can produce. Consider GE’s Haliade-X 12MW wind turbine, currently being installed in Holland. It is the world’s largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine, looming 260 meters tall from base to blade tips — 1 meter taller than New York’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza tower. And the three blades that form this behemoth’s 220-meter rotor are themselves giants. Engineered by GE’s LM Wind Power to withstand the brutal gusts of the sea and made from thin layers of glass and carbon fibers, and balsa wood fused together with a special resin, they stretch 107 meters — longer than a football field and equivalent to 1.4 times the length of a Boeing 747. Put another way, if world-record-holding runner Usain Bolt ran from one end of the blade to the other, it would take him close to 10 seconds.


Tower Of Onshore Power

 width= It may be big, but it travels well: GE Renewable Energy's largest onshore wind turbine, the Cypress boasts blades that ship in pieces, for easier assembly on-site. Image credit: GE Renewable Energy.

Speaking of wind turbines, check out this bad boy. The mighty Cypress is GE Renewable Energy’s largest onshore wind turbine. With a tower that soars up to 161 meters into the air, or roughly as tall as a medium-size New York skyscraper, it’s capable of generating enough electricity to power 5,000 European homes, thanks to a 158-meter rotor. What’s remarkable about this rotor (other than its enormity) is its blades, which ship in two ready-to-assemble pieces. This design achieves a one-two punch: capacity-boosting length and ease of transport. For example, trucks can haul them through twisting roads in hilly terrain where building wind turbines might be logistically impractical, if not impossible. That means more green electrons powering more places, including Turkey, where renewable-energy operator Borusan EnBW Enerji recently announced an order for 27 Cypress models, which will provide enough capacity to power the equivalent of 190,000 homes.


On Another Plane

 width= The whole GE9X engine is as wide as the entire body of a Boeing 737. Image credit: GE Aviation.

It takes a lot of oomph to hoist a wide-body passenger plane into the air. The oomphiest oompher of them all is the GE9X jet engine, designed to power the new Boeing 777x aircraft. It recently set a Guinness World Records title for thrust to become the most powerful commercial aircraft jet engine after reaching 134,300 pounds.

The engine's fan is roughly 11 feet in diameter, large enough that a professional basketball player could fit comfortably inside its cover — with several feet to spare. The GE9X is big on efficiency, too. Built from lightweight carbon fiber composites and heat-resistant ceramic matrix composites, it’s 10% more fuel-efficient than its predecessor, the GE90.