GE research work to decarbonize air travel has been cited as supporting climate goals local news

A new wave of federal climate- and energy-related funding is expected to benefit work being done at GE research on cleaner next-generation technologies.

Technology leaders at GE Research’s Niskayuna headquarters near Albany provided an update on their work on the potential future of aviation during an Aug. 17 visit by two members of Congress who helped advance the Inflation Reduction Act. dollars to fight climate change.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, chairs the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pennsylvania, chairs the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee.

Tonko is a regular guest at GE Research but this was Cartwright’s first visit. Both were impressed with areas such as hybrid-electric aircraft propulsion and hydrogen-fueled engines for moving people from one place to another without pollution.

“In the next 10 or 15 years there’s going to be a revolution in the way people get around in the air and you’re going to see that revolution here in Schenectady,” Cartwright said.

Tonko, a longtime advocate of taxpayer investment in technology development, said the type of public-private partnerships at play at GE Research are essential to restoring and maintaining America’s leadership position in innovation.

“You come here and you see all these aspects of the work that are related to the policy and budget related to the work that we’re doing in DC that is partially providing the resources to accomplish this, to strengthen the partnership with GE in a public. Private concept,” Tonko said. “That’s why we’re building it.”

Some aspects of the research have been ongoing for a decade, and some have moved into advanced testing.

General Electric announced last month that it had successfully completed the first test of a megawatt-class hybrid electric aircraft propulsion system at a simulated altitude of up to 45,000 feet at NASA’s Sandusky, Ohio, facility.

Mohammad Ali, vice president and general manager of engineering for GE Aerospace, joined GE Research on Wednesday’s trip.

“2025 – we are flying the world’s first hybrid electric,” he said.

Tonko said reducing carbon emissions and accelerating new technology in many areas, not just transportation, is the goal of many phases of federal spending, from last fall’s infrastructure bill to the computer chip law earlier this summer to the inflation act signed by President Biden. week

“There’s a huge incentive for research in these packages, for all kinds of developments to come,” Tonko said. It will also increase employment,’ he said.

He acknowledged the possibility that midterm elections could shift power to either the House or the Senate, or both, who don’t share the same climate change goals, or approach them in the same way, and don’t support the same research funding. .

“This is earth-shattering stuff that these bills are going to promote,” Tonko said. “If we slow it down it will be terrible.”

General Electric is just one piece of a matrix of public agencies and private companies researching all aspects of alternative flight technologies.

Satish Prabhakaran, technology leader for aviation electric propulsion at GE Research, discussed hydrogen fuel as an example.

Hydrogen—produced by green methods without carbon emissions—can be a non-polluting alternative to traditional petroleum-based aviation fuel.

But it needs to be used in its more dense liquid form rather than as a gas. which requires a cooled and pressurized tank. That adds weight to the plane, which is potentially a dealbreaker.

So developing a new generation of fuel tanks is a prerequisite, said Prabhakaran. The tradeoff of weight for strength and function in the fuel tank, and the potential consequential need to reduce weight elsewhere, speaks to the need to approach non-polluting flight as a holistic development of the entire system rather than a single revolutionary component.

“It will take a combination of new technology, smart aircraft management and new fuels,” Prabhakaran said. “New fuels are a big piece of decarbonizing the aviation sector.”

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