Fri, 7 Jul 2017

In my previous Edison’s Desk blog entry I spoke about the challenges of going into deep sea exploration and the implications of working at 4,000 meters depth for technology.

All subsea operations after the human diving limit depth (a few hundred meters) are achieved remotely. It is very expensive to send manned probes or submarines to those depths, put them in the right place, plug and unplug cables, switch valves on and off, or even just be there as observer, while all commands come from the surface, from a drilling rig or an exploration platform. Not to mention all risks involved in working at such depth: equipment that lasts a long time is heavy and very expensive.

Therefore, finding ways to accomplish tasks reliably from a distance (either from the water’s surface immediately above or from a comfortable control room onshore) has always been the key for subsea exploration.

The most used vehicle to perform such subsea operations is an ROV or Remote Operated Vehicle, which can be thought of as a very versatile, remote-controlled and tethered submarine. ROVs draw the power needed for thrust and to activate instrumentation from an umbilical cable that connects the vehicle to a ship on the surface where the ROV operator sits. That power (either electrical or hydraulic) can also be relayed to additional equipment carried, installed, or already in place on the subsea floor.

ROVs are designed to carry a certain amount of payload that ultimately reflects on the total size. They carry enough thrusters so they can move and roll to any desired direction. That, combined with one or more robotic arms, gives the ROV the ability to orient itself in the correct position.

Without a tether to feed the ROV with power, the only other way to keep the vehicle running is by using batteries. If the system also has means to operate autonomously, that is, without being steered by an operator, then it is named an AUV, or Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.

Compared to an ROV, an AUV can reach longer distances based on mission targets and battery capacity. However, because of the battery itself, AUVs are not the best choice if the mission requires applying physical forces, such as opening and closing valves; or if the mission requires hydraulic power, as there is none available. For that reason AUVs operate usually on surveillance of longer step-outs of cabling, pipes, umbilical or risers.  Put another way, AUVs are equipped to monitor the cables, pipes, umbilicals and risers that connect subsea assets that are separated by great distances. Equipped with a camera, a light source and a variety of sensors, AUVs can be used to detect leakages or structural damages for example.

The problem of recharging can be mitigated with wireless charging stations. In that way, an AUV can stay in service longer, recharging in between performing multiple missions in the same way some vacuum cleaner robots operate. The data collected during a mission can be sent topside using acoustic modems that transmit information through water, or alternatively, a charging station also can have a faster link to the surface with wires or optical fibers.

There is still another type of underwater vehicle that works as a crawler on the sea bottom. This type of vehicle is mainly designed to lay down or even bury subsea communication cables.

Sensing technologies for subsea assets
Regardless of the type of vehicle chosen, a large field for research unfolds when one thinks about the many possible applications for these carriers. The Offshore & Subsea Systems CoE team at the Brazil Technology Center is also looking at a variety of sensing technologies that, once adapted for the marine environment, can be attached to underwater vehicles and used to acquire valuable information about subsea assets, which will increase their availability. Sensors like these would allow operators to perform maintenance on machinery only when it is really needed. Today, many countries mandate that subsea assets must be retrieved from the sea bottom to the topside (or even onshore) for periodic inspection. A reliable subsea inspection in situ would save millions by leaving the assets where they are and bringing the inspection technologies to them. If the sensing technology can be made resident as part of the asset, continuous monitoring is also possible. The question here whether it is more cost-effective to place one sensor for every asset or to have a single sensor attached to a vehicle that inspects all the assets, as this option would have to include the cost of a mission to take this sensor to subsea.

Lastly, robotic systems can be installed as a resident part of an asset to perform tasks that were once accomplished by ROVs. The challenge again is to come up with technologies that can beat the operational costs of using ROVs. Unlike an ROV, such a robotic system could operate in an autonomous way as the AUVs do, without relying on a specific training of how to steer robotic manipulators, enabling them to perform tasks automatically.

Fri, 7 Jul 2017

Not every professional gets to see on a daily basis the impact of her/his work on other people’s lives. If you happen to be a physician you might; however, if like me you decided to become an engineer, it is likely that you will not experience this feeling as frequently.

The Green Skies of Brazil was launched as part of one of the largest collaborative civil aviation programs: the Brazil ATM Joint Research, led by GE Aviation and the Brazil Air Navigation Service Provider, DECEA. This partnership with key civil aviation stakeholders includes the airlines, their association ABEAR, and the regulatory agency ANAC and aims to analyze and improve airport, airspace, and airline operations in Brazil. It will positively affect thousands of passengers each day and help airlines to become more efficient.

The first phase of Green Skies of Brazil focuses on the deployment of Required Navigation Performance (RNP-AR) approaches, designed by DECEA with support from GE Aviation. This deployment will happen in ten major airports in Brazil. RNP technology allows aircrafts to fly precisely defined flight paths without relying on ground-based radio navigation aids, helping to reduce delays, fuel consumption, and noise while increasing capacity. GOL and Azul Brazilian airlines are already integrating the procedures in their daily operations. Other qualified operators will follow.

GE Global Research (GRC) in Brazil has been working on a key piece in the Green Skies of Brazil, supporting GE Aviation Systems with core big data analytics. GRC has delivered invaluable gate-to-gate simulations and a data-driven framework for detecting and quantifying the benefits of RNP-AR approaches in different Brazilian airports using massive amount of flight data.

Program results are already affecting passengers at different locations. The image below shows more than five months of real-world flight data relative to conventional approaches (in blue) to the Santos Dumont airport in Rio de Janeiro. In red, 36 approaches using RNP-AR technology from Green Skies can also be seen. The reduced variability and the shortened flight path are helping to save both fuel and time at this airport.

Ordinary (blue) x RNP-AR (red) approaches to the Santos Dumont Airport, in Rio de Janeiro.

So, next time you fly within Brazil, be aware that you might be getting to your destination more efficiently because of Green Skies!

Let me know what you think.


Fri, 7 Jul 2017

With more than 164,000 members, the American Chemical Society (ACS) is one of the world’s largest scientific societies and one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information. A nonprofit organization, chartered by Congress, ACS is at the forefront of the evolving worldwide chemical enterprise and the premier professional home for chemists, chemical engineers and related professions around the globe.

ACS is committed to “Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.”  This vision is “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.” Together, these two statements represent our ultimate reason for being and provide a strategic framework for our efforts.

ACS supports two national meeting and expositions annually, one in the spring and one in the fall.  The 245th ACS National Meeting in Exhibition will take place April 7-11, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  A number of GE researchers (both at the research center and at the various businesses) will attend this meeting to hear the newest developments in their field of study.

Three of my colleagues will be giving talks at this meeting.  See below to learn more about them, meet their research teams, and hear a bit about the talk they’ll be giving next week.

Robert Perry will be presenting a paper entitled “Progress using Aminosilicones for CO2 Capture,” at the CO2 Capture, Sequestration, Conversion and Utilization Symposium. Global concern over rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and its implication in global warming has spawned numerous efforts aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past 4 years, we have focused our efforts on 2 methods for more energy efficient post-combustion capture of CO2. Both processes use novel amino-silicone solvents and early lab and bench-scale experiments have indicated that energy savings of 25-35% could be realized over that of conventional aqueous-based amine capture technology. If carbon capture is incorporated into power generating facilities (especially coal-fired plants) two advantages would be realized. First, more of the energy that the plant produces will be delivered to the customer as electricity rather than being used to remove CO2; thus keeping electrical rates lower than might otherwise be seen. Second, the power plant emissions would be cleaner and better for the environment.

This is a 4-day symposium focused on the chemistry and technology being used for absorbing CO2from anthropogenic sources as well as use of the captured CO2.  The paper will be given on Wednesday, April 10th at 11:30 am in the Morial Convention Center, Room 219.

Bob obtained his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1985 from Colorado State University and then spent 10 years at Eastman Kodak working in the areas of new polymerization chemistries. He then moved to GE Silicones and during 9 years, worked in and managed the Americas Fluids Group, which developed products for personal care, the textile industry and oil and gas refining. In 2004, he moved to GE’s Global Research Center. His research has spanned from materials for holographic storage to fuel additives to tire chemistry and most recently carbon capture.

The GE Global Research CO2 Capture Team
The GE Global Research CO2 Capture Team

Radislav Potyrailo will be presenting an invited talk entitled “Toward rapid detection of biological particles using multivariable resonant label-free biosensors” at the Remotely Controlled Colloids and Interfaces Symposium.

In this talk, Radislav will discuss the results of the recent collaboration with Prof. David Sinton from the University of Toronto on the development of biosensors with significantly improved selectivity and reduced response time. While significant achievements in transducers for biosensing have resulted in demonstrations of single molecule and single particle detection limits, these advances were demonstrated in pristine buffer conditions, often without interferences.  Further, with the reduction of concentrations of biological molecules and biological particles, their diffusive transport to micro- and nano-sensors can easily take long time scales of days and even months, signifying the arrival to the limits of practical measurements.

In this study, the team of GE Global Research and University of Toronto applies GE’s earlier developed multivariable resonant sensors for detection of biological particles in fluids. The operation principle of our developed multivariable resonant sensors is based on measurements of the resonance impedance spectra of the resonator followed by the multivariate analysis of the resulting sensor response.  Two examples of our developed devices are illustrated below.  One of the key aspects of our developed transducers is the ability to reject interferences from the samples that contain species besides our target analyte particles. The design principles of the transducers will be discussed that include (1) designs of the transducers to enhance the sensitivity toward the analyte particles and (2) designs of the sensing region to reduce the diffusion time of biological species to the transducer surface and thus, reduce the time requested for biological detection. Such new developments in biosensors should provide the real-time information about the level of biological contaminants and improve the quality and safety of the resulting products.

Selected examples of GE-developed multivariable resonant sensors operating in the radiofrequency range (left) and microwave frequency range (right).
Selected examples of GE-developed multivariable resonant sensors operating in the radiofrequency range (left) and microwave frequency range (right).

VIn3-300x297Radislav obtained an Optoelectronics degree from Kiev Polytechnic Institute, Ukraine, and a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. He is a Principal Scientist at GE Global Research Center and SPIE Fellow with his research interests that include microanalytical instrumentation, functional nanomaterials, bioinspired photonics, and wireless sensors.  Radislav has over 150 publications and over 75 granted US Patents. He serves as an editor of the Springer book series Integrated Analytical Systems, Consulting Editor of ACS Combinatorial Science, and Editorial Board Member of Sensors. Most recent awards include 2010 Prism Award for photonics innovation by SPIE and Photonics Media and 2012 Blodgett Award by GE Global Research for outstanding technical achievements.

This is a four-day symposium is focused on methodologies for control of biological systems and bio-interfaces and has been organized by Prof. Sergiy Minko (Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Science, Clarkson University), Prof. Igor Luzinov (School of Materials Science and Engineering, Clemson University), and Prof.  Gleb Sukhorukov (School of Engineering and Materials Science, Queen Mary University of London).  The paper will be given on Tuesday, April 09, from 10:25 am to 10:50 am in New Orleans Marriott, Room: Studio 10.

Peter Perez-Diaz will be presenting a paper entitled “Combustion of Heavy Fuel Oil” at the 10thInternational Symposium on Heavy Oil Upgrading, Production and Characterization, which provides an update on the progress of a research program led by Soumya Gudiyella and Ashwin Raman at the Combustion and Kinetics Laboratory in Bangalore, India. The paper will be presented on Wednesday, April 8th at 3:40 pm in the Morial Convention Center, Room 231.

Heavy fuel oils (HFO) are used in marine engines for transportation and in industrial gas turbines and boilers for power generation. Due to the complex nature of HFO, the combustion of HFO was studied using a surrogate-based approach. The surrogate fuel for HFO emulates the composition of the fuel during de-volatilization phase and is comprised of a few surrogate fuel components. The surrogate-based methodology provided a paradigm shift in the approach towards modeling liquid fuel combustion using CFD. We moved from traditional single step kinetics approach to using detailed kinetics. Adapting this methodology will result in better emissions predictions over wide range of conditions and thereby result in better combustor designs.

Vin10Peter Perez-Diaz obtained a Chemistry degree from the Central University of Venezuela and a Ph.D. in Fuel Science from Pennsylvania State University in 2010, after which he joined GE Global Research. Before attending Penn State, Peter worked for about 5 years in Intevep, the Research and Development Center of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), where he worked on projects involving fuel quality and formulation, technical assistance to the refining sector and development of new products for the domestic market.

Vin4Soumya Gudiyella obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from University of Illinois at Chicago in the area of jet-fuel combustion in May 2012. Soumya joined the GE Global Research Center in Bangalore as a Research Engineer in Combustion and Kinetics Lab in June 2012. Her major area is chemical kinetics and she has developed a reduced mechanism for HFO combustion, which can predict different combustion and emission characteristics when HFO in burned in GE gas turbines.

Vin5Ashwin Raman obtained his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from University of Illinios at Chicago in May 2008. He is a Lead Engineer at GE Global Research Center in Bangalore in Combustion and Kinetics Lab. He has been developing high fidelity reduced chemical kinetic mechanisms for conventional and unconventional fuels, which would be used in GE’s Gas Turbine and Reciprocating engine combustor designs and aid in developing future combustors with lower emissions and higher  efficiency.

If you happen to attend the meeting, be sure to talk with the above researchers in person!  You may also post comments and/or questions below. Looking forward to hearing from you and stay tuned for a post with our takeaways from the meeting!

– Vin

Fri, 7 Jul 2017

After more than two years of planning, it is hard to believe that the AVS 61st International Symposium and Exhibition which took place Nov. 9 – 14, 2014 in Baltimore Maryland is over! The prevailing themes at this year’s symposium were materials, surfaces, and interfaces that advance device technologies and aim at practical use.

AVS is a professional society that brings together academics, and representatives of government and industry who specialize in a variety of disciplines: chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, engineering, business, and sales. AVS members share common interests in the basic science, technology development, and commercialization of materials, interfaces, and processing area.

Professor Tobin Marks from Northwestern University gave the Plenary Lecture titled “New Materials Strategies for Hybrid Electronic Circuitry.” Professor Marks’ lecture focused on the challenging design, characterization, and realization of new materials for creating unconventional electronics – and hence touched almost every AVS Division/Group – which is why I, in my role as AVS-61 program chair, selected him as this year’s plenary speaker.

Vincent Smentkowski (left), AVS-61 Program Chair with Professor Tobin Marks, Northwestern University (plenary speaker)

We hosted some new Focus Topics (many were presented at the request of industrial AVS members and also had a local flavor):

  • Conservation Studies of Heritage Materials
  • Fundamentals & Biological, Energy, and Environmental Applications of Quartz Crystal Microbalance
  • Novel Trends in Synchrotron and FEL-Based Analysis
  • Materials Characterization in the Semiconductor Industry
  • Selective Deposition as an Enabler of Self Alignment
  • Surface Modification of Materials by Plasmas for Medical Purposes

The full book of AVS-61 Abstracts can be found at:

Highlights of the AVS-61 sessions included:
Biointerfaces and Devices sessions were devoted to protein adsorption and the blood/biomaterial interface, biosensors, nonlinear optical spectroscopy and microscopy, and characterization of biointerfaces under vacuum or ambient conditions.  Other areas included biomateriomics, analytical challenges in the pharmaceutical industry, and surface modification of materials by plasmas for medical purposes.

The Biomaterial Interfaces Division program kicked off its Biomaterials Plenary session on Sunday night with the theme “Analytical Challenges in the Pharmaceutical Industry.” The goal was to explore the challenges and opportunities in locating and quantifying drugs and metabolites in animal tissues during the drug development process and in materials in the pharmaceutical formulation process. This conversation underlies an essential component of turning drugs into medicines and enabling novel delivery devices. The speakers at the plenary session covered the most recent developments in the application of surface analysis to study these complex systems and their multifaceted analytical challenges. The plenary speakers brought unique perspectives from the cutting edge of academia and the pharmaceutical industry.

Electronic, Magnetic, and Photonic Devices sessions included transparent electronics, complex oxides, high-k oxides, nitrides, advanced interconnects, plasmonic semiconductors, and manufacturing devices on paper and textiles. Sessions were devoted to processing science by atomic layer etching, atomic layer deposition, and plasma, along with selective deposition and self-aligned patterning, and materials characterization in the semiconductor industry.

AVS poster session

Nanoscale Devices. Researchers from around the globe presented their work on topics ranging from fabricating atomically precise devices to exploiting nanomaterials for applications in photonics, plasmonics, catalysis, and imaging. Sessions devoted to heat, mass transport, and mechanics were also offered

For many new materials, the time from discovery to deployment (time to market) is often greater than 20 years. The Accelerating Materials Discovery for Global Competitiveness Focus Topic addressed this issue.

Energy Frontiers sessions focused on the capture, conversion, and storage of energy in all of its forms, with an emphasis on the processes governing energy flow at surfaces and interfaces.

Surface and Interface Theory and Characterization sessions included atomistic modeling of surface phenomena, atom probe tomography, spectroscopic ellipsometry, helium ion microscopy, in-situ spectroscopy and microscopy, scanning probe microscopy, fundamentals of Quartz Crystal Microbalance, synchrotron analysis, conservation studies of heritage materials, and tribology.

Researchers working in the areas of thin films, plasma science and technology, advanced surface engineering, and actinides and rare earths realize that AVS is THE annual symposium where the newest research is presented.  Over the past few years, the AVS Annual Symposium & Exhibition has become a home to learn about the newest and greatest research being performed by the graphenecommunity; at AVS-61, we broadened our traditional graphene Focus Topic into 2D Materials.  Each of these sessions was very well attended.

Symposium statistics

More than 2,330 people registered to attend the 61st International Symposium and Exhibition!

About 300 presenters were invited to participate in the AVS-61 Presentations on Demand (PoD) program, and about 65 accepted. The AVS-61 PoDs will be posted to the AVS technical library web page ( ) by the end of 2014; the Technical Library page can be accessed by any AVS member.

It was a pleasure to serve as the program chair for AVS-61 and give back to a community that played a critical role in my professional development. I very much enjoyed working with my program Vice-Chair Anthony Muscat, the AVS staff, and the program chairs of the 10 AVS divisions, two Groups and 16 Focus Topics to construct the final technical program consisting of about 185 technical sessions, 280 invited speakers, 798 contributed talks, 197 poster presentations, and 82 late breaking presentations. The exhibit had 246 booths and was open Tuesday – Thursday.

Fri, 7 Jul 2017

I am a research chemist and my field of research is surface characterization using a technique called Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS). About a decade ago, we demonstrated the benefits of 3D depth profile analysis over 1D depth profile analysis. We found that 1D depth profile analysis (where the concentrations of the elements/species of interest are monitored as a function of depth into the sample) revealed contaminants.  3D analysis of the same data set (where 2D images are projected through the depth) demonstrated that these contaminants (referred to as deposits in the movie clip) were localized to a specific region of the sample – as shown in this 3D movie clip. A paper describing this research can be found here.

At the time my research was just that, research. I now have a personal story demonstrating the benefits of 3D analysis vs. 2D analysis that many readers may relate to. 2D analyses are most often represented by photos or images.

Many people in the Albany NY area will remember that Valentine’s Day 2015 was the coldest day of the year. We were having a dry snowfall at the same time as high wind chill. I was taking my family’s dog for a walk when the dry snow displaced under my feet. Unfortunately, there was a sheet of ice under the snow and I fell. By the time I got back to the house, my left ankle was swollen. My daughters obtained an ice pack and I iced the ankle for about an hour and again 40 minutes later. That night, the pain started to increase and became intense. When I got up in the morning, I went to the Emergency Room to have my ankle checked. At first they thought it was a bad sprain, but the doctor decided to have an X-Ray (also known as radiograph) taken. The 2D X-Ray revealed a non-displaced fracture.

X-ray showing non-displaced fracture

Jump ahead 6 weeks, and the fracture was not showing healing. As I am no longer young, and a type 1 diabetic, this was not unexpected. However, when an X-Ray taken of the fractured region at 9 weeks still did not reveal healing I was sent for 3D Computed Tomography (CT) imaging. A few slices through the CT image shown below clearly show that the fracture was more significant than originally thought — there is a 2.5 to 3 mm gap!

Slices through the CT 3D data set (nine weeks after fracture) reveal 2.5 – 3 mm gap at fracture.

This shows the benefit of 3D versus 2D analysis. The X-Ray image is a 2D view of the entire bone structure of the leg (all depths through the leg are represented in the one 2D X-Ray image) but my fracture is a rare instance where an X-Ray could not accurately describe the severity of the fracture. It was not until doctors took the 3D CT image (which is a combination of many X-Ray images taken from different angles to produce the 3D image) that we understood the severity of the fracture.

I had surgery on Tuesday, April 28, to repair the ankle. I now have a titanium plate and 6 screws in my ankle as shown in the X-Ray below. Although it is frustrating not being able to do the 1,001 things I need to get done, I am glad to report that my recovery is going smoothly.

X-ray images three weeks post-surgery showing titanium plate and six screws.



Fri, 7 Jul 2017

Each year the US oil and gas industry generates around one trillion gallons of produced water as a byproduct of oil and gas development. Unfortunately, despite droughts stretching across the arid western United States, much of this produced water is unfit for reuse and must be disposed of in centrally-located underground injection wells. Experts at GE’s newest research center, the Oil & Gas Technology Center in Oklahoma City, are working to develop new cost-effective and sustainable methods for treating and reusing produced water. This entails localizing disposal of some of the poorest quality water through a variety of technologies, including well partitioning.

Produced water management is critical to environmentally responsible oil and gas operations worldwide. Advanced technologies in both water treatment and well drilling exist today that will make it possible to retrofit existing oil and gas wells to recover hydrocarbons, treat the produced waters, and use the treated waters to recharge non-potable groundwater aquifers through the existing well bore. Well partitioning is a production-aquifer recharge system that offers the potential to reduce costly transport and disposal operations while reducing the possible environmental impact associated with handling water at the surface.

Perhaps even more exciting is the opportunity that well partitioning could offer to convert the produced water that is currently wasted into a resource, perhaps by connecting drought-stricken areas or aquifers in severe shortage with a large supply of treated water for recharge. The technology could hold the key for the oil and gas industry to have a net positive impact on the hydrological cycle – returning more clean water than it uses in the development process.

The oil and gas industry generates one trillion barrels of produced water annually. If even a small portion of that water could be treated and returned to the environment it could have a positive impact on drought-stricken areas.

Treating produced water in the oil and gas context isn’t entirely new for GE. In Wyoming, GE is working with Encana to deploy reverse osmosis membrane treatment technologies for cleaning produced field water from its Moneta Divide field to Class 1 standards, characterized as an “outstanding aquatic resource” by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

Whether produced water can be cost-effectively treated and returned for beneficial use ultimately depends on a number of factors, most importantly, water quality. At the Oil & Gas Technology Center, we are working with customers to develop even more technologies that could help reduce the oil and gas industry’s water usage and hold the potential to safely repurpose produced water for beneficial uses.

Fri, 7 Jul 2017

I lead GE’s Materials Processing and Testing team here at Global Research. We partner with scientists and engineers from across GRC and our GE businesses to understand and predict how next-generation materials will behave in the challenging environments which they must perform. Together, we are developing some of the most sophisticated and cutting-edge material systems for GE, including composites, ceramics, and high-performance superalloys for numerous GE industrial products.

As you’ll see in the videos below, we put our materials through some of the most demanding tests to ensure they deliver performance under extreme temperatures, pressures, and environmental conditions. These tests offer our researchers a glimpse into how GE’s materials will perform in applications such as jet engines and gas turbines. And while we normally don’t test rubber duckies, rubber band balls, and softballs, we wanted to illustrate for you how some common household objects react to the tests we put our materials through every day here in the lab. If you’d like to see some videos of everyday objects going through the tests we put our materials through, be sure to tweet using #SpringBreakIt for a neat surprise and visit GE #SpringBreakIt on Tumblr to see more.



In our Mechanical Testing Lab, for example, we test material samples in a variety of ways and extract crucial mechanical property information from each to characterize the material behavior. In the following video, we are heating a metal sample beyond 1700°F and conducting a lab-scale forging process. This exercise allows GE researchers to understand both the way in which the material behaves under these processing conditions, as well as how the material might perform in an industrial application, such as a jet engine or a gas turbine.

To test the durability and strength of carbon reinforced polymer matrix composites used in jet engines, we often subject small, thin samples of these materials to a “drop weight” or dynatop test. In this test, a heavy weight is dropped from various heights to see how well GE composites respond to the impact.

Environmental conditions can destroy lesser materials, so we simulate these conditions in the lab to understand how our parts will react and hold up to real-world challenges. One such example is high-speed sand erosion testing where we use a specially designed grit blaster to impinge sand directly at a material coupon to simulate how such an environment would affect the material’s performance.

Do you have a question about materials? How they’re made? How they play a crucial role in making products stronger, lighter and more cost effective? Our materials scientists are here and ready to answer your questions. Simply submit your question to our Stump the Scientist and we’ll select the best questions to answer through a short video!


Fri, 7 Jul 2017

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Global Leadership Meeting held near Lake George, New York. As a first time attendee, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how, if at all, I would be able to adequately relay my experience to the members of my laboratory or my project teams. Fortunately, I was unnecessarily worried, because after having some time to personally reflect on the GLM, and then participating in my own Technology Organization’s GLM, I came away with a strong sense of two important themes that truly resonated with me as a leader in GE Global Research. Both of these themes are related to our culture as a company and are encapsulated, perhaps not obviously, in the GE Beliefs.

Like many other engineers and scientists working at GE Global Research, I consider myself a bit of a technology maven; constantly curious about technology being developed both inside and outside of our company, especially disruptive technologies. Disruption is like a game where strategy and speed are always in tension – part chess, part race – and I am passionately energized by it. In this light, it’s not surprising that the first thing that struck me during the GLM was the focus on some of the new technology thrusts happening within GE.

Changing the technology landscape

Of particular note is the pursuit of a bold strategy to marry the digital and physical sciences in an aggressive bid to disrupt the industrial markets we play in. We’re calling it the industrial internet and, at its core, is the concept of pairing up the “internet of things” that has taken the consumer market by storm, with our company’s deep and longstanding expertise in complex, physical engineering. This is more than just a science project; it’s an adaptation to the changing technology landscape. The rise of big data analytics and the confluence of the physical and digital is something that we’ve recognized as essential to staying relevant in an extremely fast-moving industrial landscape.

Hearing the great talks about this emerging technology at the GLM, and understanding the scope of our investments in this area, helped reinforce a core tenet of GE’s that has always motivated me as an employee: we’re taking an offensive position in this technology area, and we’re doing so to lead, not to follow. We’re attempting to disrupt the landscape, and we’re playing to win. To me, this truly epitomizes the GE Belief: Learn and Adapt to Win, and is just one example of the many ways for how we’re doing it as a company.

Thinking and acting as one team

Another element of the GLM that resonated with me centered on the recurring theme of collaboration. Now more than ever, with innovation happening at an unprecedented rate, we need to think and act as one team within GE. Regardless of our function, our experience, or our technology area, it is essential to acknowledge that everyone on our team brings something of value to the goals we’re striving to accomplish. Sure, when things are moving fast, it might seem easier to go it alone – but if we don’t take the time to embrace and empower one another, we will undoubtedly be disadvantaged against our competitors who are working equally hard to innovate. I’m a big believer in teamwork, and am inspired every day by the teams we’ve built to solve some of the world’s toughest technology problems. In my view, the words reflected in the GE Belief: Empower and Inspire Each Other perfectly captures the spirit of teamwork and collaborative culture we must continue to foster within GE. As a lab manager and project leader, I know that this can begin with me.

In short, my takeaways from the GLM revolved around our cutting-edge technology and our people, the two things that have made GE the company that it is today. Every day, I’m personally inspired by those around me; the people on my teams; and the tough technical challenges we’re trying to overcome together at Global Research. Being able to see, firsthand, our GE Beliefs being put to practice at the top levels of leadership underscored the fact that the way we approach new and exciting problems in technology, together, isn’t anything new – it’s simply the way we work.

Fri, 7 Jul 2017

Hi Everyone:

I was recently enlightened by Kunter Akbay about TED.  Now, I had heard of TED, before, but never really paid attention until Kunter gave a short talk at one of our lab meetings – and have been addicted ever since.  For those of you who don’t know, TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design and their motto is “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  There is an entire community and on-line presence formed around this motto.  In addition, they have two formal conferences each year where the invited speakers are given a very short time (less than 20 min) to get their idea across.  It’s meant to be quick, engaging, and to the point – many talks are less than 6 minutes!  Topics vary widely from technical inventions, to life-lessons learned, to various artists performing.   A great thing is that TED posts all the talks on their web-site – so everybody can enjoy from the comforts of their home.

One of the talks that caught my attention was from William Kamkwamba, a young man from Malawi who garnered fame for his perseverance, ingenuity and dedication in building a windmill to generate electricity for his family.  It is inspiring to hear his story of how he decided to continue to learn on his own by reading books in the library after he dropped-out of school because his family couldn’t afford the tuition… and then ingeniously applied his self-education to improve the lives of those around him.  This young man demonstrated many of the values that I admire:  passion for learning, determination, inventiveness, hands-on solving of real problems, helping the community, making the best use of available limited resources and focusing on renewable resources.

The world needs more people like Mr. Kamkwamba.

Fri, 7 Jul 2017

Happy 4th of July everyone! As we gear up to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and barbecues in the sweltering heat, we wanted to figure out a fun way to mark the occasion.

This is the first of a series of blogs examining the “science of summer” as we explore the underlying science behind summer-based themes. We’ll be answering deep questions like how does sunscreen work, what are the economics of a lemonade stand, and for today, why beaches have different colored sand.

It turns out that, well, it isn’t really rocket science (like my normal job), but more a matter of geology! The sand, as you would guess, is really just tiny bits of rock that have eroded from the local geology. So the color is pretty much determined by the mineral content of the local sediment and rock. In honor of the 4th of July, I figured we’d look at red, white and yes, blue sand!

Let’s begin with red sand. Red sand is pretty easy to understand. It’s found in areas which are rich in iron (iron-oxide, commonly known as rust, is red-colored). Kaihalulu Beach in Maui is a famous example with the iron coming from the continual erosion of the volcanic cinder cone located behind the beach. Prince Edward Island in Canada is also a pretty unique place as the entire island is composed of iron-rich red- sandstone sediment resulting in very deep-red soil and red sand beaches!

As for the white sand. Well, I am sure everyone is picturing a beautiful tropical paradise with turquoise water and long stretches of white beach. It turns out that white sand is composed of finely ground quartz crystals. Crescent Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, FL won the 1987 Great International White Sand Beach Challenge for the whitest sand in the world. The quartz actually originates from the igneous rock in the Appalachian mountains and the eroded material is carried into the Gulf by the major rivers.

And finally, blue sand! This is, by far, the coolest type of sand and can be found on Redang Island off the coast of Malaysia. Unlike the other sands, which are dominated by geological processes, blue-sand is biologically-inspired. It turns out that tiny creatures from the class of ostracods (related to crustaceans, like crabs, lobsters, etc.) can be bioluminescent, giving off a blue-glow. Try imagining the marine equivalent of fireflies. These little guys are tiny (less than 1 mm in size) and are mixed in with the sand. As night approaches, they light up making it seem like the sand is glowing a nice blue color.

I hope you learned a bit about our world’s patriotic sand! If you’d like to see more colorful beaches, check out this site showcasing the world’s most unusual colored sand! Stay-tuned for more on our summer series. If you’ve got a burning summer science question, please post a comment below and I’ll try our my best to answer! I hope you have a great fourth of July and if you are on the beach, be sure to teach your family and friends a thing or two… or three about sand!