NISKAYUNA — The new wave of federal climate and energy funding is expected to benefit some of the work being done at GE Research on next-generation cleaner technology.
Technology leaders at GE Research’s Niskayuna headquarters gave an update Wednesday on their work on the possible future of aviation during a tour by two members of Congress who helped push through the multi-hundred-billion-dollar Inflation Reduction Act. his dollars to fight climate change. .
Rep. of US Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, chairs the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, and Rep. U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pennsylvania, chairs the Subcommittee on Commerce, Judiciary and Science.
Tonko is a regular guest at GE Research, but it was Cartwright’s first visit. Both came away impressed with the work being done in areas such as hybrid-electric jet propulsion and hydrogen-fueled engines to move people from one place to another without creating pollution.
“There’s going to be a revolution in the way people get around in the air over the next 10 or 15 years, 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 kind of public-private partnership at play at GE Research is essential to restoring and maintaining the U.S.’s leadership in innovation.
“You come here and you see all these aspects of the work related to the work that we’re doing in DC with the policies and the budget that is providing the resources in part to make this happen, to strengthen that partnership with GE in a public-private concept,” Tonko said. “This is how we’re going to make it happen.”
Some aspects of the research have been underway for a decade, and some have moved into advanced testing.
General Electric last month announced that it had successfully completed the first-ever test of a megawatt-class hybrid electric jet propulsion system at simulated altitudes of up to 45,000 feet at NASA’s facility in Sandusky, Ohio.
Mohamed Ali, vice president and general manager of engineering for GE Aerospace, joined Wednesday’s tour of GE Research.
“2025 – we will fly the world’s first hybrid electric,” he said.
Tonko said reducing carbon emissions and accelerating new technology in many sectors, not just transportation, is a goal of multiple rounds of federal spending, from the infrastructure bill last fall to the computer chip legislation in early this summer until the inflation act signed by President Biden this year. week.
“These packages have tremendous incentives for research, for all kinds of development to come,” Tonko said. They will also increase employment, he added.
He acknowledged the possibility that midterm elections could shift power in the House or Senate or both to people who don’t share the same climate change goals, or approach them the same way and support the same research funding. .
“That’s the shocking stuff these bills will promote,” Tonko said. “It would be terrible if we slowed this down.”
General Electric is just one part of the matrix of public agencies and private companies researching all aspects of alternative flight technologies.
Satish Prabhakaran, GE Research’s technology leader for aviation electric propulsion, discussed hydrogen fuel as an example.
Hydrogen generated by green methods – without creating carbon emissions – can be a non-polluting alternative to traditional petroleum-based aviation fuel.
But it should be used in its denser liquid form, rather than as a gas. Which requires a cold and pressurized tank. Which increases the weight of the aircraft, which is potentially a nuisance.
So developing a new generation of fuel tanks is a prerequisite, Prabhakaran said. The combination of weight for strength and function in the fuel tank and the resulting need to reduce weight elsewhere speaks to the need to approach clean flying as a holistic development of whole systems rather than a single component revolutionary.
“It will take a combination of new technologies, smarter aircraft management and new fuels,” Prabhakaran said. New fuels are a big part of the decarbonisation of the aviation sector.
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