It took more than a few nuts and bolts, but the world’s largest jet engine, the GE9X, has finally been attached to the wings of the world’s largest twin-engine jet, the Boeing 777X. The plane maker recently released pictures of the long-awaited marriage of engine and plane, slated to take their maiden voyage together in 2019. How large is the world’s largest engine? At 11 feet in diameter, the GE9X is as wide as the body of an entire Boeing 737. And it boasts a slew of cutting-edge GE technologies, including 3D-printed parts, fan blades made from advanced carbon-fiber composites, and components made from a material that can withstand temperatures up to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit
The heat is on: Thanks to these and other technologies, the 777X will be “the most-efficient twin-engine jet in the world, with 12 percent lower fuel consumption and 10 percent lower operating costs than the competition,” according to Boeing. It will come in two variants, the 777-8 and the 777-9. The larger version will seat between 400 and 425 passengers and carry them up to 8,745 miles, farther than the distance from New York to Hanoi. The 777-8 version, which will seat between 350 and 375 passengers, will be able to cover 10,000 miles, more than enough for the Singapore-to-Newark, New Jersey, route, currently the world’s longest nonstop flight.
Learn more about the head-turning pair here.
Can unmanned aerial vehicles coexist safely in the sky with planes and other “manned” aircraft? At a recent gathering in upstate New York, a group of engineers and pilots, including reps from GE, took a major step toward that goal: For the first time they successfully tested drone flights integrating a next-generation airborne collision avoidance system being developed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The demand for such technology is becoming sky-high: About 7 million unmanned vehicles might be buzzing around American airspace by the year 2020. That’s compared to just 320,000 manned aircraft.
Cloud software: The economic potential of drones is huge — perhaps $46 billion by the middle of the next decade, according to one prediction. They’re already being used to inspect power lines, refineries and other industrial assets, as well as for tasks like crop dusting. Soon, they could be delivering packages and even passengers. As the FAA surveys our unmanned future, the agency is looping in the aviation industry to tackle the infrastructure and tech challenges these vehicles present. That includes GE’s flight operations team, which joined partners to conduct 53 flights of various configurations, distances and situations over five days last fall near Rome, New York.
Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, is easily flammable, impossibly light and — when burned and combined with oxygen inside a turbine — able to produce electricity without emitting carbon dioxide. All of those virtues make it alluring to engineers such as Jeff Goldmeer, who works on gas turbine products for GE Power. “Our turbine customers constantly ask how they can take advantage of hydrogen to generate low-carbon power,” Goldmeer says. “I tell those customers: ‘It’s possible right now.’ ”
Gas giant: In fact, GE has installed more than 70 gas turbines in the United States, Europe and Asia that currently burn or have past experience burning fuels that contain hydrogen. Blending hydrogen into natural gas, for instance, helps plants save money and cut CO2 emissions. “The beauty of these turbines is their fuel flexibility,” Goldmeer says. “They’re part of the solution.” And where renewables such as wind and solar are concerned, hydrogen also has a role to play in solving the problem of intermittency: It can help fill the gaps when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
No less a thinker than Jules Verne, the French father of science fiction, predicted a bright future for hydrogen — way back in 1874. Find out more here about how Verne’s prophecy is being realized.
1. Star child
A Netherlands-based company has set 2024 as the target date for sending a pregnant woman to give birth in space. The company says it’s preparing for a future when humans might have to leave the planet — but do the benefits outweigh the risks?
2. People in 3D-printed glass houses
Scientists from MIT’s Mediated Matter Group have come up with a technology for 3D-printing glass at “architectural scale,” paving the way for it to be used as a better building material.
3. Speak, memory
Science magazine brings us a roundup of the progress of three teams working toward a common goal: using artificial intelligence to translate human brain activity into computer-generated speech, bypassing the mouth altogether and improving communication options for people with disabilities.
Read more about this week’s Coolest Things on Earth here.
— QUOTE OF THE DAY —
“The technologies I’ve worked on are out of this world. I never have a dull moment.”
— Ted Ingling, general manager of the GE9X program at GE Aviation
Quote: GE Reports. Image: GE Aviation.
ENJOY THIS NEWSLETTER?
Please send it to your friends and let them know they can subscribe here.