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The GE Brief — September 12, 2019

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September 12, 2019

SWEAT EQUITY

In a saying commonly attributed to Thomas Edison, the inventor (and GE founder) claimed that genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. The Wizard of Menlo Park would probably be pretty impressed, then, with a new device that literally combines inspiration with perspiration, under development by engineers at GE Research in collaboration with partners from industry, government and academia: It’s an adhesive patch that sticks to the skin of people working in hot or high-stress conditions, measuring the electrolytes in their sweat and monitoring for signs of dehydration. Fighter pilots, emergency workers and elite athletes could all benefit from the real-time collection of such data, which the patch transmits wirelessly to an app. It could signal to a fire chief, for instance, that a firefighter needs to take a breather before the risk of injury rises.

Takes a licking, keeps on sticking: The patch itself, of course, needs to be able to endure the same punishing conditions as its wearers. That’s why it recently went to boot camp. Specifically, the engineers attached the first generation of their adhesive sweat patch to volunteers at U.S. Air Force boot camp. “We told them to break it, to understand its vulnerabilities during use,” said Azar Alizadeh, a GE Research materials scientist. Then they went back to the drawing board, turning out an improved version that retains two key elements of the first: Microfluidics technology channels perspiration into a tiny chamber, where delicate sensors take readings. Now the patch is being tested with recreational athletes at the University of Connecticut, and should be ready for more field trials by early 2020.

This patch is just one of an array of wearable devices under development at GE that could be used to monitor core body temperature, respiration rate and blood pressure, and much more. Learn more here.

 

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

A human kidney and a huge wind turbine blade in the country of Spain don’t have a whole lot in common, but there’s this: Neither is of much use if it can’t get to where it needs to be, and each requires just a little preplanning before it can be moved anywhere. The logistical question of getting from point A to point B comes up with a lot of the work that GE does around the world. We pulled together a collection of some of the more impressive flights of fancy — or ocean voyages, as the case may be — that the company’s tech has been involved with. It starts with that flying kidney.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Earlier this year, a drone speedily delivered the first-ever organ for transplant to a team of surgeons in Baltimore. The human kidney traveled more than two miles through the night skies in a box attached to a drone and monitored by the University of Maryland with the help of Air Mobility Platform, a digital platform by AiRXOS, part of GE Aviation’s autonomous division. As for wind turbines, GE has engineered ways to transport not just their massive blades but also the nacelles, which house the turbines’ power-generating components. In one representative example, five of these 400-ton giants, each roughly the size of a giant mixer truck, were loaded onto a special ship in France for transport to Block Island, Rhode Island, where they’re now part of America’s first offshore wind farm.

Read more here about how GE gets its tech from here to there.

 

UNDER THE SEA

A trip to the moon isn’t exactly a walk in the park, and — as NASA prepares to send humans back to the lunar surface, and eventually even farther — researchers are studying the toll such missions can take on the human body. They’re doing that under the sea, a place on Earth that’s not quite the moon but is similarly inhospitable. In a new article in The Conversation, neuroscientist Csilla Ari D’Agostino reflects on a nine-day mission she embarked on with two astronauts, two technicians and a fellow researcher to a “tiny capsule” 62 feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys. Called NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation — or NEEMO — the program is meant to mimic “what life might be like in the tight quarters of a moon base.”

Finding NEEMO: This isn’t the first time the subsea has stood in for outer space. In 1969, GE itself built an underwater habitat in the Caribbean where NASA could conduct research on how crews would behave during long-duration space missions. NASA has been sending “aquanauts” to the Florida Keys since 2001, writes D’Agostino, for training and to “test space devices and study the physical and psychological toll of living and working in extreme environments.” Her area of study was the psychological effects of the isolation and the harsh conditions, both inside the capsule and outside — the team went on simulated “spacewalks” in the surrounding ocean, for instance. The NEEMO data will provide a baseline understanding, D’Agostino explains, to help NASA “improve physical and mental performance, while protecting the brain, in both genders during future undersea and deep space exploration missions.”

It wasn’t all hard work and isolation: D’Agostino also used a remote device to collect plankton samples from the seafloor. Find out more here about her voyage — and how it’ll help send humans out of this world.

 

— VIDEO OF THE WEEK —

Ultrasound Could One Day Treat Illness

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 —

 

“We went back to the drawing board. We redid the design to make the patch more compact and include more capabilities, like new sensing modalities, better data handling and ergonomics.”

Azar Alizadeh, materials scientist at GE Research

 

Quote: GE Reports. Image: GE Research.

 

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