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Santa's green sleigh of the future

General Electric is using the holiday season to showcase real-world technology with a green bent under development at GE labs.

GE's artist rendering of Santa's sleigh GE

Author Gregory Mone is not the only one touting would-be Santa technology this year.

General Electric has released its own theory of how the legendary Santa Claus could make his yearly trip while communicating with Mrs. Claus and the elves back at HQ. This version, however, showcases real-world technology with a green bent under development at GE labs. While the Santa hook is child's play, the technology presented has useful applications in the adult world.

For example, the company is developing "icephobic" coatings that prevent ice and water from sticking to a vehicle even when driving through snow. It also has a ceramic matrix composite (CMC) material intended for use in the gas turbine engines used in aircraft. The material is lightweight and heat-resistant to high temperatures, but is not brittle like most ceramic materials. It's closer to metal in terms of durability, according to GE.

The paper-thin, bendable OLED lights for Santa's sleigh could be incorporated in all manner of gear like camping tents, wallpaper, or firefighters' uniforms.

Trip Optimizer calculates optimum speeds for a locomotive engine to save fuel depending on the route and makeup of the train, then self-adjusts the locomotive's throttle accordingly throughout the trip. GE suggests Santa might use the autopilot system for his sleigh, but Canadian Pacific Railway announced in July that it's equipping 200 of its freight locomotives with the system.

Other new technologies highlighted with the sleigh concept include: sodium batteries, a wireless medical sensor, and RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. More details on the technology, along with profiles of the scientists working them, can be found at GE's interactive Web site.