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GE Global Research Uses 3D Printing to Create Mini Turbine That Can Power 10,000 Homes

by • April 17, 2016 • No Comments

hofer turbine

[Image: GE Global Research]

‘Bigger is not always better’ is a maxim the truth of which is increasingly convincing to folks in the modern world. We’ve seen computers go of the dimensions of a room to the dimensions of a fingernail, telephones move of bulky, murder-weapon-dimensions devices to sliding into your front pocket, and actually houses are trending in the direction of the not-so-big.

Latest on the my-invention-is-additional compact-than-yours catwalk is a tiny turbine which despite weighing just 150 pounds can generate sufficient electricity to power 10,000 homes. To donate you an thought of what which means in terms of reduction in dimensions, current steam turbines with much like output capabilities are ten times sizeabler. Not just is the newer turbine significantly additional compact, it in addition operates with a 10% increase in efficiency at turning heat into electricity. A additional benefit is the system’s aptitude to rapidly power up to rapidly generate electricity during peak demand, requireing just a couple of minutes to come online in comparison to the half an hour necessary for steam-powered turbines.

This diminutive dynamo, created at GE Global Research, works via the power of carbon dioxide which is heated to such a high temperature, in this case up to 700°C, it becomes what is known as a supercritical fluid. Rather than via steam to donate it spin, this supercritical fluid operates in the realm where the difference between gas and liquid virtually disappears enabling it to generate power in an incredibly efficient manner. After passing through the turbine, the supercritical material is cooled, repressurized, and sent through again in a endless repeated cycle which keeps the turbine moving.


Doug Hofer of GE Global Research holds a 3D printed prototype of the turbine [Image: GE Global Research]

In addition to making sizeable quantities of electricity of a tiny device, this method may in addition donate companies an opportunity to turn CO2 into cleaner power. It is this promise, and other future yet being accomplished, which has led to the partnership between GE and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), an agency of the US government as well as other programs inside the US Department of Energy.

brightonbeach_webThe research is, as of yet, in its early stages, but 3D printing has been a significant tool for study and iteration in the development system. Whilst the final ‘minirotor’ may be high-strength metal, it may have been just about not easy to advance as rapidly without the capabilities of 3D printing to provide rapid prototyping and system oriented models.

The future step in the development of this innovation is to determine the possibilities for scaling it up to the 500 megawatt range, the ability necessary to power a sizeable city. In addition to the cleaner use of CO2 to create power, the reduction in the footprint of these generators adds up to thousands of acres of landscape which require not be dedicated to just holding generators. As Doug Hofer, manufacturer of the minirotor explained:

“This tiny machine can allow us to do awe-inspiring things. The world is seeking cleaner and additional efficient ways to generate power. The concepts we are exploring with this machine are helping us address both. With energy demand expected to rise by 50 percent over the future two decades, we can’t afford to wait for new, cleaner energy solutions to power the planet. We have to innovate now and manufacture energy generation as efficient as possible. Programs like those we are working on with the US Department of Energy are helping us get there.”

What do you ponder of this new innovation? Discuss in the GE 3D Printed Turbine forum over at 3DPB.com.