GE Research’s work on decarbonizing air travel cited as helping climate goals | Local news

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 near Albany gave an update Aug. 17 on their work on the potential future of aviation during a tour by two members of Congress who helped push the Inflation Reduction Act, with its hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change.

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

Tonko is a regular guest at GE Research, but it was Cartwright’s first visit. Both came away impressed by the work being done in areas such as hybrid-electric aircraft propulsion and hydrogen-powered 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 to 15 years and you’re going to see that revolution right here in Schenectady,” Cartwright said.

Tonko, a longtime advocate for taxpayer investment in technology development, said the kind of public-private partnership at play at GE Research is indispensable to restoring and maintaining America’s leadership position in innovation.

“You go here and you see all these aspects of the work that are related to the work that we’re doing in DC with policies and budgets that provide the resources in part to do that, to strengthen this partnership with GE in a public way. private concept” , Tonko said. “This is how we’re going to make it happen.”

Some aspects of the research have been going on 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 simulated altitudes of up to 45,000 feet at NASA’s Sandusky, Ohio facility .

Mohamed Ali, vice president and general manager of engineering at GE Aerospace, joined the tour Wednesday at GE Research.

“2025: We want the world’s first electric hybrid,” he said.

Tonko said reducing carbon emissions and accelerating new technologies in many sectors, not just transportation, is a goal of multiple rounds of federal spending, from last fall’s infrastructure bill to legislation on computer chips earlier this summer to the inflation bill signed by President Biden this year. week

“These packages have huge 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 do not share the same climate change goals, or who do not approach them in the same way and do not support the same research funding. .

“These are the mind-boggling things that these bills are going to push forward,” Tonko said. “It would be terrible if we stopped this.”

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

Satish Prabhakaran, GE Research’s technology lead for electric aviation propulsion, spoke of hydrogen fuel as an example.

Hydrogen generated by green methods, without creating carbon emissions, could be a non-polluting alternative to traditional petroleum-based aviation fuel.

But it must be used in its denser liquid form, rather than as a gas. Which requires a refrigerated tank under pressure. Which increases the weight of the aircraft, which can be a deal breaker.

Therefore, developing a new generation of fuel tanks is a prerequisite, Prabhakaran said. The trade-off of weight for strength and function in the fuel tank, and the potentially resulting need to reduce weight elsewhere, speaks to the need to approach clean flight as a holistic development of whole systems rather than a unique 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 sector.”

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