March 28, 2019
Think of how the gig economy is changing the nature of work, pushing more flexible, part-time labor. A similar phenomenon is happening in the energy market, where old-school gas-fired power plants are increasingly required to take their own flexible, part-time shifts, joining and dropping off the grid as needed to complement renewables like wind and solar. Among those leading the charge? The nearly 20-year-old Enfield plant, operated in North London by energy company Uniper, whose GT26 turbine is undergoing a major upgrade. Using technology from the latest GE turbines as well as 3D-printed parts, GE engineers will breathe new life into the plant, giving it the efficiency, flexibility and reliability it needs to compete in today’s world.
Restart me up: “This upgrade could give Enfield at least another 15 years of service,” said GE’s Amit Kulkarni. The turbine will get a boost, for instance, from 3D printing, as GE’s printers build components such as the turbine’s lances, which inject fuel into the roaring superheated air in the second combustion chamber. The advanced capabilities supplied by 3D printing mean that the lances can be produced in a shape that will optimize fuel-air mixing, yielding gains in efficiency as well as emissions reductions. The GT26 HE project (the HE stands for high efficiency) is the most advanced upgrade yet for this model of turbine, but what starts in the U.K. might — like the Clash and the Rolling Stones — quickly gain fans worldwide: Around the globe, nearly 100 GT26 turbines in operation can generate around 36 gigawatts, roughly equivalent to powering the entire grid of Egypt or Argentina.
Read more here about the bridge that gas-fired plants are building to the renewable future.
The GT26 isn’t the only machine benefiting from 3D printing. Earlier this month, engineers from GE Aviation dropped in on the nation’s capital to receive a Laureate Award from Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. Their achievement? The Catalyst, which is the first turboprop engine designed from scratch in more than 30 years and has got the next-gen bona fides to prove it — the Catalyst is also the first engine destined for mass production with large sections 3D-printed from metal. Joe Anselmo, editorial director of the Aviation Week Network, said, “GE Aviation and this year’s winners exemplify the spirit and innovations that are transforming our industry to meet the challenges of tomorrow.”
The mother of invention: Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing allowed GE’s engineers to distill into just 12 parts what typically would amount to 800 components made via conventional methods. It also allowed them to reduce the engine’s weight by 5 percent, improve specific fuel consumption by 1 percent and develop the engine much faster than they would’ve been able to otherwise. The engine also boasts a “digital brain” technology, common in jets but never before seen in commercial turboprop planes, that will allow pilots to control the craft with just a single lever, rather than three. It’ll make flying a turboprop plane so easy that “my mom could do it,” said GE’s Simone Castellani, who helped develop the technology. “Everything is done automatically. In a way, it is just like flying a scooter.”
That’s one fast scooter. Click here to learn more about the one-of-a-kind Catalyst.
1959 was a big year for tiny achievements: Designing one of the most influential advertising campaigns of the 20th century, for instance, Volkswagen seized on “Think Small” as the tagline for its Beetle. And famed theoretical physicist (and future Nobel Prize winner) Richard Feynman gave an influential talk at Caltech, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” predicting that the future of science was trending toward the minuscule, the “staggeringly small” — or what today would be called nanotechnology.
Paul McEuen heard Feynman’s call and answered it. Today at Cornell University, the physicist is creating nanomachines that can be measured by the atom, using materials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes. McEuen’s lab created “the world’s first nanotube guitar,” for instance, and subsequently played Cornell’s alma mater on it. But the tech they’re developing will also resonate much wider, with nanomachinery that could have all sorts of important futuristic uses, including in medicine.
Not small potatoes: “Imagine something as small as a piece of dust, but it has a set of solar panels on it to power it; it’s got computation on board to carry out a task, maybe do some sensing; and it’s got a light-emitting diode to blink out information to you,” McEuen said. Such machines could be voltage or microfluidic sensors or thermometers, McEuen said. They’re also so small they could be injected into the body with a needle: “One day, one of these little machines might be used to record the voltage when a neuron fires in the brain. So instead of putting a wire in your skull, as they do now, they could implant this and leave it. And it turns out when something is as small as these nanomachines, your body doesn’t realize they’re there.”
Learn more here from Cornell University about the potential applications of McEuen’s technology — and how his lab uses origami techniques to shape their tiny machines.
Researchers found that targeting organs with ultrasound could treat conditions like inflammation. https://invent.ge/2T2UjRB
Posted by GE on Friday, March 22, 2019
— QUOTE OF THE DAY —
“There’s not another engine like it in the world.”
— Stephen Erickson, GE Aviation test engineer
Quote: GE Reports. Image: GE.
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