Imagine the day when you can fly from New York City to Los Angeles in under an hour and, with the time difference, literally arrive two hours before you left. You would, in a sense, be traveling back in time. That day is coming as next generation propulsion technologies and other supporting innovations begin to take flight. Ultimately, we see the potential for average commercial flight speeds to rise from subsonic today to five times the speed of sound within the next two decades.
GE RESEARCH TECHNOLOGY PORTFOLIO
Teams of scientists at GE Research are working on a portfolio of advanced technologies that could one day make time travel possible. And, these teams know that creating such a paradigm shift in air travel requires innovation that is the sum of many parts. Many of those parts are being developed in our research labs, including:
Rotating Detonation Engine (RDE) Technology
GE has been developing RDE for four years (starting with work on the Advanced Turbine Technologies for Affordable Mission-Capability (ATTAM) PGP program) and follows more than a decade of work with NASA and other research partners in pulsed detonation engine (PDE) technologies. RDE, which enables a 5X increase in speed and smaller, more compact engine designs, still carries many technical risks. But GE scientists have made significant progress to understand how to control this technology in safer, more reliable ways.
High Temperature Materials
GE scientists and engineers from Global Research and GE’s Aviation business were the first to develop and deploy high temperature ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) into a commercial jet engine. The shrouds surrounding the hot gas path of GE’s CFM-LEAP engine for narrow body aircraft are made of this watershed material. A popular material for space travel, advanced materials that are more durable and can withstand hotter temperatures will be required to support the faster and more advanced propulsion platforms such as RDE that are on the horizon.
We have spent decades designing sophisticated new systems for managing the heat inside GE’s turbomachinery products. With temperatures inside these systems often exceeding the thresholds of what materials can withstand, we employ a combination of advanced cooling systems, materials and thermal barrier coatings on parts to keep engines running safely and reliably.
3D Designed and Printed Parts
GE researchers are currently designing a new heat exchanger using 3D printing processes that will be lower in weight and able to create more efficient heat transfer through an engine platform.
Noise Reduction Technologies
With higher speeds through the air come new issues such as the sonic boom phenomena that occurs when airplanes take-off and fly at super or hypersonic speeds. GE Research has one of the world’s top specialists in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) who has been working with NASA and others on this very challenge. The team also can leverage learnings from GE’s Aviation and Wind businesses in reducing noise in its jet engines and wind turbine products.
GE Research has driven the development of advanced propulsion, materials and other supporting technologies in the aviation industry for many decades. From engine design to advanced materials ranging from super metal alloys to CMCs, our contributions have helped improve the safety and reliability of flight and expanded air travel from 31 million people in 1950 to more than 4 billion passengers globally last year.
Together with other aviation industry partners, we’re working on the next generation of technologies to make air travel and the world more accessible than ever before. For example, we’re in close communication with airframe manufacturers to enable planes to achieve top speeds of more than 3,800 MPH. Traveling that fast could turn back the clock.