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The GE Brief — January 23, 2020

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January 23, 2020

 

BRICK BY BRICK

About a seven-hour drive from Dakar, along a winding dirt road, the Senegalese village of Santhie Nguedi is also a long way from Baden, Switzerland — where Anna-Lena Andersson can usually be found, managing cash flows and currency-exchange risk rates as head treasurer of GE’s Steam Power division. But last October, when Andersson had the opportunity to help build a school in Santhie Nguedi, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work. After starting each day with a breakfast of beans, lentils and instant coffee, Andersson and other volunteers dug out the building’s foundation and shaped concrete bricks that would form its walls. “You learn you can do something awesome with small things,” she said. “It gave me strength.”

If you build it … Andersson described the construction of the school, a joint project between GE and the nonprofit BuildOn, this week in Zurich, Switzerland, where she and her colleague Steffen Fluhrer delivered the keynote address at GE Steam Power’s annual leadership meeting. So far, GE and BuildOn have launched 46 schools across seven countries, including Haiti and Guatemala. When BuildOn first announced what would come to be called the GE Switzerland School in Senegal, Andersson supported raising $30,000 for the build: half from Steam Power employees, half from the GE Foundation. The Switzerland School opened its doors last month — but Andersson’s work has just begun. “This is now a lifelong commitment for me,” she said. “When I think about how easy it is to do something that impacts generations, how could I stop?”

Next stop? Nepal. Learn more here.

 

SUPERCHARGE IT

Nestled in the Tennessee hills, Oak Ridge National Laboratory made history as part of the Manhattan Project, demonstrating the crucial ability to produce plutonium from uranium in a nuclear reactor. Today ORNL is still concerned with tiny bits of matter, but its scientists are focused on another piece of potentially world-changing technology altogether: 3D printing. This computer-controlled manufacturing process relies on lasers to build objects layer by layer from fine metal powders. Last October, GE Additive signed a five-year cooperative research and development agreement with ORNL to combine the lab’s research capabilities with GE’s experience in 3D-printing products from metals.

Heavy metal potential: Metal is one ingredient in the 3D-printing revolution — another is data. Sensors attached to 3D printers can monitor everything from fluctuations in heat to the chemistry of the powders, information that can be used to optimize production processes and steer clear of error. They generate so much data, in fact, that analyzing it on traditional computers would take ages. Enter Summit, the most powerful computer in the world — which lives at ORNL. The hope is that, ultimately, the findings can be integrated into AI-driven software that can make adjustments to manufacturing equipment in real time. “This industry is still in its infancy,” said Christine Furstoss, vice president of advanced manufacturing at GE Additive. “We don’t have 50 or 60 years of processing knowledge and people studying it, like traditional manufacturing. That’s why relationships like this are so important.”

Learn more here about what GE Additive and ORNL are building together in Tennessee.

 

DUDE, WHERE’S MY CARBON?

The year 2050 has emerged as a benchmark in the climate crisis. Last month the European Union set it as a deadline for its member states to go carbon-neutral, and the United Nations secretary-general has also urged countries to go carbon-neutral by 2050. Getting there, though, may involve more than just figuring out ways to slow or stop carbon emissions. The problem of greenhouse gases has grown so dire that solving it — according to Columbia University geophysicist David Goldberg, writing in The Conversation — will require actually sucking carbon from the air and storing it safely on Earth.

Now you see it, now you don’t: So-called negative emissions technologies range from the futuristic all the way down to the practically elemental. On the simpler end? Planting trees and restoring wetlands. On the novel end, Goldberg has researched techniques for injecting CO2 into volcanic rock beneath the surface of the ocean — where, he writes, it might react to form solid minerals like limestone. The bottom line, Goldberg writes, is that the menu of available options needs to be considered as a whole: “That’s because no one location, no singular technology and no country in isolation will be sufficient to solve this huge problem by itself.”

Learn more here about the potential of negative emissions technologies.

 

— VIDEO OF THE WEEK —

See how GE’s mobile TM2500 power plant is helping deliver relief to people who are desperate for electricity.

— QUOTE OF THE DAY —

“I wanted to go out of my comfort zone. That’s when you start to connect with people and grow.”

Anna-Lena Andersson, head treasurer at GE Steam Power

 

Quote: GE Reports. Image: GE Steam Power.

 

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