The new wave of federal climate and energy-related funding is expected to benefit some of the work done at GE Research on cleaner next-generation technology.
Technology leaders at GE Research’s Niskayuna headquarters near Albany gave an update on August 17 about their work on the potential future of aviation during a tour by two members of Congress who helped enact the Inflation Reduction Act with hundreds of billions of dollars. dollars to fight climate change.
U.S. Representative Paul Tonko chairs the D-Amsterdam, Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee, and U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright chairs the D-Pennsylvania, Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee.
Tonko is a regular guest of GE Research, but this was Cartwright’s first visit. Both were impressed by the work being done in areas such as hybrid-electric aircraft propulsion and hydrogen-fueled engines to move people from one place to another without creating pollution.
“In the next 10 or 15 years there will be a revolution in the way people get around in the air, and you’re going to see that revolution right here in Schenectady,” Cartwright said.
Tonko, a longtime advocate of taxpayer investment in technology development, said the type of public-private partnerships in place at GE Research is indispensable for restoring and maintaining the US leadership position in innovation.
“You come here and you see all these aspects of the work we do in DC, partly with the policy and budgeting that provides the resources to do it, this partnership with GE is a public-private concept,” Tonko said.
Some aspects of the research have been going on for over a decade, and some have moved on to advanced testing.
General Electric announced last month that it has successfully completed the first test of a megawatt-class hybrid electric aircraft propulsion system at NASA’s Sandusky, Ohio facility at simulated altitudes of up to 45,000 feet.
Mohamed Ali, vice president and general manager of engineering, GE Aerospace, took a tour of GE Research on Wednesday.
“We will fly the world’s first hybrid electric by 2025,” he said.
Reducing carbon emissions and accelerating new technologies in many industries, not just transportation, Tonko said is the goal of multiple federal spending, from the infrastructure bill last fall to the computer chip law earlier this summer and the inflation law signed by President Biden this year. week.
“These packages have tremendous incentives for research and any future development,” Tonko said. He added that they will also increase employment.
He acknowledged the possibility of by-elections shifting power in the House or Senate or both to those who do not share or approach the same climate change goals and support the same research funding. .
“This is the world-shaking stuff that these bills will spur,” Tonko said. “It would be terrible if we slowed it down.”
General Electric is only part of a matrix of public and private companies exploring all aspects of alternative flight technologies.
Satish Prabhakaran, GE Research’s technology lead for aviation electric propulsion, took hydrogen fuel as an example.
Hydrogen produced using green methods – without creating carbon emissions – could be a non-polluting alternative to traditional petroleum-based aviation fuel.
However, it should be used in a denser liquid state instead of gas. Requires a cooled and pressurized tank. This adds to the weight of the aircraft, which is potentially a deal breaker.
Prabhakaran therefore said that developing new generation fuel tanks is a prerequisite. The trade-off of weight for power and function in the fuel tank, and potentially the need to reduce weight elsewhere, points to the need to approach non-polluting flight as a holistic development of all systems rather than as a single revolutionary component.
“It will take a combination of new technologies, smarter aircraft management and new fuels,” Prabhakaran said. “New fuels are a big part of decarbonizing the aviation industry.”