NISKAYUNA, N.Y.--Road Trip 2010 has been about many things: military innovation, manufacturing prowess, making money, American history, and much more. But during his travels around the U.S. Northeast, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman has also gotten a chance to visit some of the most august research facilities in the world.
One of those stops was at General Electric's Global Research headquarters in this upstate New York town. There, he was given a full day's tour and a look at some of the technologies the industrial giant is working on and which could see the light of day in the next few years.
Terdiman's tour covered a wide range of technologies and disciplines, including GE's thoughts on how to incorporate nanotechnology into bother materials science and aviation.
Seen here is an experiment that demonstrates the unusual behavior of particles at the nano scale. This is what happens when a magnet is applied to a liquid made from nano-scale iron oxide shavings.
One of the research projects Terdiman got to see revolved around the idea of making cost-efficient LED lighting systems. GE says that LEDs will replace every other light bulb technology in the next five to 10 years.
Seen here is a 1,500-lumen LED lamp. GE Research asked that the front of the lamp not be shown for competitive reasons. In order to make this lamp cool enough to operate safely and efficiently, GE is using several special synthetic jets that use piezo electric actuators. The lamp has been tested for more than 3,000 hours so far, but its design goal is more than 50,000 hours.
Although it is not entirely possible to portray the amount of light coming from the 1,500-lumen LED in the previous picture, this image makes an attempt. The light is extremely bright, and while it is not yet more cost-effective than incandescent or compact florescent, LED technology is expected to be the dominant model in five years, according to GE.
GE Research is experimenting with synthetic jets in several places. One is in cooling LED lamps, and another is in trying to figure out new ways to better aerodynamically control airplanes.
As part of that research, the company is working extensively with these synthetic jets, which are based on piezo electric actuators and work like small bellows. Through a small hole, oxygen is sucked in and pushed back out, and the system works extremely fast. In this case, the force of the propulsion from the jet alone can spin this arm around at a fairly high rate of speed.
A collection of synthetic jets in the Energy and Propulsion technologies lab at GE Research. The jets are capable of producing very powerful propulsion with no motor, using just piezo electric actuators.
This is an example of General Electric's first silicon carbide MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor). GE thinks that by using silicon carbide, it can produce much more energy efficient electrical conversion from wind turbines, electrical panels, airplane engines, and more. This work is part of GE's power electronics research. These wafers, which are key elements of that conversion, are manufactured at GE Global Research.
At GE Research, many scientists are using optical imaging in their fight against cancer. This device is used in optical imaging as a way to identify affected organs and other internal body parts in cancer patients. A patient would drink a special imaging agent, and the camera's infrared sensors penetrate deep into the body in a bid to identify areas of concern, such as leaky blood vessels, a hallmark of cancerous tumors.
This image shows the results of being able to use optical imaging inside the human body. It shows that by imaging a merger of nerves and blood cells, scientists can get a much better view of what's going on inside a cancer patient's body.
GE Research maintains what it calls a "Pilot Development Center," where it works on creating production equipment for experimental projects. These days, the center is being used to produce printable OLEDs, like the one seen here.
Scientists in the nanotechnology section of GE Research's Advanced Technologies section noticed that water seems to flow right off certain kinds of plants, such as this one. Now, they are working to recreate the kinds of surfaces that nature has produced at the nano scale, in order to be able to apply those kinds of surfaces to places and machines that are better kept dry.
In the previous picture, we can see how nature's nano-scale surfaces can cause water to instantly bead and flow off. Here, we see an experimental surface created by GE researchers in a bid to replicate the properties of nature that are water repellent.