When GE engineers wanted to make their jet engines more efficient, they developed a special ceramic material that can operate at temperatures where most metal alloys grow soft. But the idea of putting ceramics inside jet engines was so revolutionary that they took the material to a shooting range and blasted it with steel balls flying at 150 mph to prove that it was viable (see image below).
In 2012, Chicago-based United Airlines became the first American commercial carrier to fly a Boeing 787 Dreamliner powered by GE’s next-generation GEnx engines. The airline may soon operate the world’s largest Dreamliner fleet powered by the engines.
GE engineers spent a decade developing the GEnx. They designed unique carbon fiber composite blades that spin inside the engine’s giant 111-inch fan and shed hundreds of pounds from other parts.
Today, the GEnx is GE’s most advanced jet engine in service. GE has $35 billion in orders and commitments for the engine, and it contributes to GE’s record $245 billion backlog.
That backlog will be highlighted at the GE’s annual shareholder meeting, which starts in Chicago on Wednesday. “Progress is an important concept,” says Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO. “It’s important for investors to think about day-in-and-day-out execution that over a long period of time makes a big difference.”
GE has been growing earnings-per-share each year since 2009, expanding margins and focusing on organic growth that underpins dividend payments, which were raised 16 percent at the end of last year. Take a look at our infographic that illustrates the numbers. You can find out more about GE’s advanced technologies here.
One afternoon a year ago, Sergey Kozub, a software developer in the Russian city of Kursk, was scrolling through messages on the popular programming forum topcoder when he hit on a link to Kaggle. Kaggle, the world’s largest open community of data scientists, had just partnered with GE and Alaska Airlines and challenged the public to come up with software that would reduce flight delays and make airlines more efficient and profitable.
Kozub spent the next several months writing algorithms and crunching data after work to come up with a solution. Today, he became one of the winners of the second leg of the Industrial Internet Flight Quest contest. “It was a very challenging competition,” Kozub says. “In the end, the difference between the scores of the top competitors was about five basis points.” In other words, miniscule.
Commercial airlines spend an estimated $22 billion annually managing flight plan efficiency. “Flight plans don’t always stick to a schedule,” says John Gough, director for Fuel and Carbon Solutions at GE Aviation. “There are gate conflicts, flight delays and unexpected fuel consumption. All these factors add up quickly.”
GE estimates that if every scheduled flight worldwide was able to reduce the distance it flew by only 10 miles, airlines could potentially cut annual fuel consumption by 360 million gallons and save the industry over $3 billion each year.
Gough says that the Flight Quest challenge, which received 6,800 submissions from 58 countries, is looking for an algorithm that could provide real-time, flight plan intelligence to the pilots “so they can make smarter decisions in the cockpit.”
Kozub, who won the second prize in the second phase of Flight Quest and $50,000, built a flight optimization model using dynamic programming to find a rough estimate of a flight route between airports and then make it more efficient. “It’s a custom-made solution,” he says. “The general approaches are well known, but the actual implementation requires a lot of domain-specific knowledge and attention to detail.”
His algorithms analyzed weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, airport ground conditions and also flight statistics.
The winners of the second stage of the Flight Quest challenge will share $250,000 – the same amount set aside for the first stage winners, who were announced last year. (Kozub finished fourth during the first stage. He is the only contestant to win a prize in both legs.)
Kozub says that “there was some element of luck to winning” since the final results were very tight. “The chance of spending a full month without a reward was very high,” he says.
GE and NineSigma also announced three winners of another open innovation challenge called the 3D Printing Production Quest. They came up with the best applications of additive manufacturing methods to make parts from a class of dense metals like Niobium and Molybdenum, which are highly resistant to heat and wear.
These so-called refractory metals are used in medical X-ray systems and in tubes that generate X-rays. The metals very effectively block X-rays without the environmental and health hazards associated with lead. Each winner of this challenge will receive $50,000.
Half a century before Boston Dynamic’s BigDog, GE engineers developed the Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine, or Walking Truck. The U.S. Army got interested and awarded GE a contract for building the experimental vehicle.
But the machine was too hard to control and the project was scrapped. However, Kevin Weir at flux machine recently reanimated the Walking Truck so the mechanical beast could gallop once more.
Two days before Christmas 1895, shortly after Wilhelm Röentgen discovered X-rays by experimenting with a cathode tube in his laboratory, he invited his wife to experience the phenomenon. Anna Bertha Ludwig put her left hand inside his apparatus and became the first human to be X-rayed. But when she saw her wedding ring slipped over the bones of her fourth finger, her reaction was far from jubilant. “I have seen my death,” she exclaimed.
Röentgen became immediately famous but it was not until 1913 that X-ray imaging took off. That year physicist William D. Coolidge, a longtime director of the GE Research Laboratory in Schenectady, NY, invented the X-ray Tube.
A print of one of the first X-rays by Wilhelm Röntgen (1845–1923) of the left hand of his wife Anna Bertha Ludwig. It was presented to Professor Ludwig Zehnder of the Physik Institut, University of Freiburg, on 1 January 1896. Source: NASA
Coolidge kept perfecting his tube and received 83 patents for the technology. The tube effectively started radiology as a medical discipline and launched a series of innovations raging from the X-ray machine to computed tomography.
The latest in that line is GE’s Revolution* CT scanner, which was just cleared for use in the U.S. Where Roentgen and Coolidge could see just shadowy outlines of bones and organs, the new machine can image the heart in just one heartbeat.
In 1939, GE medical scanners produced X-ray images of mummies for the New York World’s Fair (above). Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.
The system uses high-resolution and motion correcting technology similar to the image stabilization features in personal cameras. The blend of speed and clarity is important because it allows doctors to retrieve sharper images with higher resolution at lower radiation doses.
Cardiologists can use the Revolution to image patients with high heart rates, oncologists can use its low-dose settings to study liver, kidneys, pancreas and other organs, and neurologists can quickly assess brains of stroke patients. “This will be the first CT scanner that’s right for physicians in every clinical specialty and provides answers from one CT exam,” said Steve Gray, president and CEO of GE Healthcare MICT.
Circle of Willis supplies blood to the brain: Low dose high definition neuro CT angiography 120kV / 200mA / 0.8 sec rotation. Lead picture: An image from triple rule-out, a CT procedure that can be used for patients with acute chest pain: Low kV gated chest CT angiography 80kV / 450mA / 0.28 sec rotation / BMI 23 / bpm 56-59.
A high definition image of carotid arteries. The circle of Willis is in the center of the skull: 2 volumes 100kV / 300mA / 0.8 sec rotation / BMI 25 / 2.3mSv.
This image captured by GE’s Revolution CT scanner shows the human heart with stents typically used to treat narrow or weak arteries.
Fast body imaging of the pelvis and the abdomen: 4 volumes 120kV / 280mA / 0.5 sec rotation / BMI 29 / 10mSv.
Fast body imaging of the pelvis and the abdomen: 4 volumes 120kV / 280mA / 0.5 sec rotation / BMI 29 / 10mSv.
The Revolution CT can image the whole aorta: Fast body vascular imaging using 4 volumes 120kV / 415mA / 0.4 sec rotation / BMI 29 / 12mSv.
Boeing engineers started building the 737 in the 1960s to compete with France’s Caravelle, Britain’s BAC One-Eleven, and the iconic McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft.
The majority of 737s have been powered by technology with GE pedigree. CFM International, a joint venture between GE and Snecma (Safran), has been the exclusive jet engine supplier for each new generation of the aircraft ever since Boeing started making an improved version of the plane, the Boeing 737-300, in 1984.
GE and Snecma launched their joint venture in 1974. The goal was to grow their presence in the short-to-medium-range aircraft market dominated by jet engines using the classic low-bypass turbofan design, like Pratt & Whitney’s JT8D engine.
CFM engineers developed a new high-bypass engine similar to jet engines powering long-haul aircraft like the Boeing 747, with improved fuel consumption, reduced noise and quick turnaround time at the airport.
The result, an engine called CFM56, was bigger than its predecessors. Boeing engineers had to redesign the wing and suspend the engine in front of it, rather than below. The solution gives the engine its trademark oval opening (see picture above).
Today, there are more than 13,500 CFM56 engines powering planes used by 300 operators around the world. Most of the planes are 737s, but the engine family also powers Airbus and other aircraft.
CFM is now developing a next-generation engine called LEAP for the newest version of the Boeing 737 – the 737 MAX. It will enter service in 2017.
The LEAP engine is the first commercial jet engine in history to use 3-D printed fuel nozzles and special ceramic materials called ceramic matrix composites in its hot section to improve efficiency and cut emissions. The LEAP-powered 737 MAX will be 14 percent more fuel efficient than the current version. This could translate into billions in savings.
A new generation of jet engines is giving a $144 billion boost to GE’s industrial performance. The engines and services agreements added to the company’s record $245 billion backlog at the end of 2014’s first quarter, whose results GE announced this morning.
One of them is the LEAP engine. It won’t enter service until 2016, but it has already become a bestseller, with more than 6,000 confirmed orders from 20 countries. It is being developed by CFM International, a 50/50 joint venture between GE and France’s Snecma (Safran). The company has orders and commitments valued at $83 billion for that engine alone.
The LEAP is the world’s first passenger jet engine with 3D printed fuel nozzles and next-generation materials that include heat-resistant ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) and breakthrough carbon fiber fan blades woven in all three dimensions at once. In March, GE announced the opening of a new $100 million assembly plant for the engines in Indiana.
These “intelligent” wind turbines will soon be operational at five wind farms in Oklahoma, Indiana and Illinois. Their sensors and algorithms could squeeze as much as 420,000 megawatt-hours of extra electricity from the farms’ combined 402 turbines. That’s enough to power 33,000 average U.S. homes.
But making machines that talk to each other is not easy. That’s why last month GE co-founded the Industrial Internet Consortium with partners AT&T, CISCO, IBM and Intel. The open, not-for-profit group will work together to break down technology silos, improve machine-to-machine communications and bring the physical and digital worlds closer together. “It’s still like the Tower of Babel,” says Joe Salvo, manager of Complex Systems Engineering Laboratory at GE Global Research. “We need to bring [machines] together in powerful new networks.” GE estimates that the Industrial Internet could add between $10 and $15 trillion to global GDP – the size of today’s U.S. economy – over the next 20 years.
There’s more power in GE’s engine room. Each Evolution Series locomotive, for example, is strong enough to pull the equivalent of 170 Boeing 747 jet liners (The company also make engines for those). GE Transportation recently announced a deal to supply 233 locomotives to South Africa’s Transnet Freight Rails. Transnet moves every pound of coal and iron ore exported by South Africa, and close to a fifth of the country’s freight. That makes the railroad a key player in nation’s economic revival. Transnet plans to spend Rand 200 billion ($18.6 billion) on expanding capacity and increasing cargo volume.
“This is an emerging technology,” says Alisdair McDonald, business leader of subsea power and processing at GE Oil & Gas. Pumps, motors, compressors, water-treatment technology and other machines will soon be all going overboard.
Find out more about GE technology and about the company’s first quarter results from our infographic featured above.
Vadu Inc. is a Canadian startup using sophisticated face recognition algorithms and data analytics to study customer behavior. Like many young companies, it’s racing to convert ideas into products and compete on the market.
“We can study people’s movements and behaviors,” says Jason Randhawa, chairman and CEO of Vadu. “We can watch how they interact with the product and employees on the floor, analyze their reactions and sentiment, and see what they like or don’t like about the experience.”
Vadu was born from a unique program developed by GE Ventures, GE Licensing and Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures, a research and innovation platform launched by the Canadian province. It gives entrepreneurs and small and mid-sized businesses access to a treasure trove of unused GE intellectual property. The goal is to bring their ideas to life, and ultimately to the marketplace. Vadu is the first licensee.
This IP sharing partnership is GE’s latest effort at implementing an open-source approach to innovation and entrepreneurship. “This is a unique arrangement for any multinational company,” says Bradley Smith, vice president for regional programs at GE Canada. “It allows GE to work with the government to extend the concept of open innovation into the field of technology licensing.”
GE has long been active in Alberta’s energy sector and Smith says that the new partnership is also helping the province broaden its business mix and grow tech companies. “The local economy is leaning heavily on oil and gas,” Smith says. “The partnership is a strategic diversification play by the government to bolster tech companies in the area.”
Smith says that companies like Vadu get access to GE-owned IP that is dormant or underutilized. GE will receive a return once the products take off. “Everyone benefits,” Smith says.
Randhawa launched Vadu with his co-founders last November. His business is using vision algorithms originally developed at GE labs for GE Security, a business unit focused on video surveillance, access control, alarm systems and other technology. GE sold the business in 2010.
Randhawa says the Vadu will use the algorithms to strip metadata from video captured by store cameras and mix it with other sales-related information. It will provide store managers with powerful tools to understand customer behavior, assess sales performance and obtain clues for enriching the customer experience.
Says Smith: “This IP was sitting on the shelf. Vadu expanded its value by finding new applications in the retail sector.”
Hanging a picture in the living room can be a vexing experience involving just a hammer and a nail. Now imagine bolting a jet engine to the wing of a passenger plane. Maintenance crews use special metal brackets to safely mount and dismount the engines that weigh nearly 13,000 pounds. The brackets are reliable but they are also bulky, adding extra pounds for the plane to carry around.
Last year, GE invited members of the open engineering platform GrabCAD to redesign the 4.5-pound titanium alloy part and come up with a lighter bracket that could be 3D printed. The partners offered a $20,000 reward to the best designs.
It worked. The winner, an engineer from Indonesia, created a design for a bracket that weighed 84 percent less than the existing part and survived all mechanical tests. It took him just a few months.
This “new way to make” things animates GE’s partnership with Local Motors, a design innovator that built the world’s first open-source car. GE is not getting in the car business, but it will work with Local Motors to bring co-creation and “microfactory” production to the appliances business.
Their platform, called FirstBuild, will prototype new ideas sell them in small quantities. “This is going to be a brand new community of engineers, fabricators, designers and enthusiasts,” says Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors. “GE is already full of experts and they will meet the community half way.
GE is also working with Quirky, an online community of some 2,000 makers, to design and take to market internet-connected devices ranging from home sensors to smart air conditioners like Aros. Owners can control the 8,000 BTU AC with their smartphones. It is already available on Amazon.
Owners can control their Aros ACs with their smartphones. Top image: The world’s first open-source car developed by Local Motors.
The Wired story also focused on changes in GE’s management style reflecting the new startup ethos – a no mean feat at a global company that employs 300,000 workers. For example, the company teamed up with Lean Startup guru Eric Ries to create a program called FastWorks. It encourages employees to change how they work, with an emphasis on speed to market.
“We’re saying to people it’s ok to try things earlier, it’s ok to bring customers in earlier,” says Beth Comstock, GE’s Chief Marketing Officer. “You’re giving people a lot more freedom to move faster to make more small mistakes.”
Moving faster, indeed. Only one of top ten brackets from last year’s GrabCAD challenge failed when subjected to mechanical tests. The aviation engineering experience of the Indonesian winner? Zero.
Nothing could be more ironic than a giant fresh water aquifer underneath the Sahara desert. Unless, of course, you live in northern Africa. As a result, Algeria and other African countries have started slaking their thirst with desalinated sea water. Other arid nations in the Arab world and Australia have also embraced the technology.
This solution is effective, but it’s also power hungry. Desalination works by pushing salt water pressurized up to 1,000 pounds per square inch through a superfine membrane, which stops the larger salt molecules and lets fresh water through. Because of all that pressure and pumping, energy consumption adds up to 70 percent of the cost of desalination. The process gobbles up globally 75 terawatts of electricity, enough to power almost 7 million homes.
That’s why GE, which has built desalination plants around the world, and Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco, launched a new open innovation challenge to improve the energy efficiency of water desalination.
Four winners of the $200,000 challenge will receive $50,000 each and possible further investment to make their ideas commercial. “We hope to inspire scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world to bring their talents,” said Deb Frodl, GE’s global executive director for ecomagination.
Top image: If Earth’s water were drained into a single drop, it would measure about 950 miles in diameter. Roughly three percent of that amount is fresh water, and just one-third of that is easily accessible. The GIF was created by Julian Glander. It is based on data from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The Texas Medical Center in Houston is the world’s largest healthcare complex. Doctors at the center, whose grounds are 1.5 times larger than New York’s Central Park, see 7 million patients per year and complete 350,000 surgeries. Its $15 billion operating budget is twice the size of Iowa’s state budget. “There’s no collection like this anywhere in the world,” says Dr. Robert C. Robbins, the TMC’s president.
Few things blend reliability and heavy duty better than a jet engine. GE, which makes the world’s largest and most powerful jet engines, built a family of sturdy gas turbines derived from its aviation technology. They are called “aeroderivatives.”
A fleet of mobile aeroderivative turbines is powering a desert town in Algeria. Top image: Aeroderivatives and jet engines share the same pedigree.
Aeroderivates have proven their mettle many times, most recently during Hurricane Sandy. In October 2012, the storm killed several hundred people, ravaged entire communities and knocked out power to 2.6 million people on the East Coast. But a co-generation plant at Pricenton University used the technology to keep the campus lit and warm, while the surrounding town went dark.
One of the flightless jet engines is now also helping the TMC. It provides the complex with electricity, heating and cooling. “We serve over 6,500 hospital beds,” said Steve Swinson, president and CEO of Thermal Energy Corporation (TECO), which operates the TMC power plant. ”If we don’t do what we do, they don’t do what they do.”
TECO is using GE’s LM6000 aeroderivative turbine at the TMC to generate 48 megawatts of power. The system also traps exhaust heat to generate steam for the TMC’s heating and air conditioning systems.
The power plant allows TECO to cut enough carbon dioxide emissions (more that 300,000 tons per year) to remove the equivalent of 53,000 cars off the road, compared to purchasing the heat and power directly off the grid.
GE engineers built turbine around the CF6 jet engine, which powers many large passenger planes, including Air Force One. The jet engine inside the machine spins a shaft attached to the generator to produce electricity.
Technology from the CF6 engine is generating power for the world’s largest hospital.
In 2012, MIT’s Technology Review recognized aeroderivatives as a “key innovation” for “building flexible and efficient natural gas power plants.” They also earned GE a spot on the magazine’s list of the world’ 50 most innovative companies.
When a massive heat wave hit Buenos Aires last December, overworked ACs triggered weeks of blackouts that rolled over the metropolis of 2.8 million. The heat left many residents in the dark – literally and figuratively. People had little visibility on which neighborhoods would be affected and for how long. “The uncertainty and the lack of information were almost as depressing as the blackouts,” Celeste Acosta, a local community manager, told Smart Planet.
Acosta and her friends built a website called #AcáNoHayLuz (There is No Light Here) and engaged more than 100,000 people who reported their “power status” over Facebook and Twitter. The information colored a dynamic map showing which areas had electricity. “We just hope that we’ve planted some seeds out of which other collaborative projects might grow,” Acosta said.
As strange as it sounds, many 21st century utilities, including in the U.S. and in Europe, still don’t know when customers lose power. Somebody has to call them. Acosta’s project shows how software, data and social media can quickly make things better. “The grid is becoming much more dynamic,” says Dave Daly, director of advanced distribution management systems at GE Digital Energy. “When you have a stressful situation like a storm moving through, you need as much visibility and situational awareness as you can get.”
Daly and his team built a system that plugs the grid to the Industrial Internet, aka the Internet of Things. It can help utilities pinpoint problems, manage the grid better and maximize the use of renewable energy.
Illustration by Chucco. Top image comes from “Thunderbolt Hunters,” a 1942 short science film made by GE about “a new and strange profession of today dedicated to spying on the angry skies and wresting from nature the truth about her thunderbolts.”
The technology, called PowerOn Advantage advanced distribution management system, collects data from smart meters, transformers, grid maps, finance databases and even human resources. The system feeds the data to custom algorithms for analysis, and delivers the results in a simple and intuitive form to managers.
Daly’s goal is to spot problems before they get out of control and locate the right repair crews as quickly as possible. “It’s like eyes across your network,” he says. “We rally every asset we have at our disposal. With this system we can identify where the fault is, restore power upstream and downstream, and send the repair crew to the right location. That’s critical. We are reducing the response time.”
Besides outage management, the system’s software brain also handles efficient electricity distribution. Daly says that the new system can help producers and utilities improve their “grid visibility” and increase the share of renewable energy flowing through the wires. “Today there are wind and solar farms as well as homes selling electricity to the grid,” he says.
The system’s “intuitive, cockpit-like interface” gives workers the right information they need to know at the right moment, Daly says. It also has an app running on mobile devices that allows workers in the field to access data, communicate with each other via virtual chat and SMS messages.
“Right now a systems operator may be sitting in front of nine screens and three keyboards,” Daly says. “We are simplifying that and bringing everything together, the data as well as the displays.”
Explore this PowerOn infographic for more information:
These two jet engine brackets made from a titanium alloy came out of a 3D printer at GE Global Research last December . They were among the 10 finalists in GE’s global 3D printing challenge.
GE and the open engineering platform GrabCAD invited the maker community to design a stronger but lighter bracket used for moving jet engines that weigh nearly 13,000 pounds. The company received over 700 entries from all over the world.
GE engineers strapped each of the 10 shortlisted brackets to an MTS servo-hydraulic testing machine and exposed it to axial loads as high as 9,500 pounds.
Only one of the brackets failed. The rest advanced to a torsional test, where they were exposed to torque of 5,000 inch-pounds.
A bracket designed by M Arie Kurniawan, an engineer from Indonesia, had the best combination of stiffness and light weight. The original bracket weighed 2,033 grams (4.48 pounds), but Kurniawan was able to reduce its weight by nearly 84 percent to just 327 grams (0.72 pounds).
Kurniawan won $7,000 in prize money. GE and GrabCAD also selected seven other design winners who will divide the balance of the $20,000 prize pool.
Amtrak’s Texas Eagle train runs south from Chicago to San Antonio and then west to Los Angeles. In early March, it has picked up for the return journey a load of bloggers, entrepreneurs and social media influencers headed for the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, Texas. The idea was to spread the word about long-distance train travel and blog and tweet at #AmtrakLIVE during the 33-hour journey. “AmtrakLIVE had amazing scenery, engaging collaboration and the opportunity to explore and be inspired,” said Julia Quinn, Amtrak’s social media director. “It was all part of the Amtrak long-distance experience.”
Three GE Genesis locomotives pulled the Amtrak “SXSW special” from L.A. to Austin. The bloggers occupied two carriages at the end of the train filled with ordinary travelers.
The Texas Eagle, like most American long-haul passenger trains, is powered by a GE Genesis locomotive. GE engineers built the machines for Amtrak in the 1990s, and they remain the staple of train travel outside the electrified northeast corridor. “It’s a terrific locomotive, it’s essentially what ties the country together,” says Mark Murphy, who runs Amtrak’s long-distance routes. “Without it, our network of 15 long-haul trains providing service to small town and big cities across America would not be possible.”
The Genesis was conceived when Amtrak started looking for a new generation of passenger locomotives that could pull longer trains at higher speeds. “At the time, France and Germany were already building futuristic-looking trains and that was what Amtrak was seeking,” says GE’s Bob Parisi, who helped design the locomotive.
Parisi went to Europe and came back with a design solution called monocoque, where the outer structure carries most of the weight, kind of like an egg shell. This design was key to the Genesis since the locomotive weighs more than 268,000 pounds but has just four axles. It is also relatively small, since it must sneak through snug, century-old tunnels in the northeast. “Fitting all that weight in was by far and away the largest challenge,” Parisi says.
The team came up with a sleek locomotive that sports a short bullet nose and can go as fast as 110 mph. Murphy says that Amtrak can run the diesel locomotives “in a pinch” even on the electrified route between Washington, D.C., and Boston.
The locomotive’s 4,250 horsepower engine provides the train with “head-end power” used for lighting, heating, AC, cooking and, of course, WiFi for blogging.
The Genesis is using fully computerized diagnostics that allow the engineer to monitor the system and simplify maintenance and repair.
GE built several hundred of the locomotives. They helped Amtrak carry 31.6 million passengers last year, the most in the company’s history. 2013 was Amtrak’s 10th record ridership year in 11 years.
Social media influencers like Digital LA’s Kevin Winston (front right) and BJ Mendelson (presenting) were aboard.
Amtrak calculates that rail travel is 17 percent more efficient than air travel and 34 more efficient than car travel. The company has cut diesel use by 6 percent over the last decade and it’s been looking for new ways to reduce the use of petroleum products.
In 2010, for example, the railroad retrofitted a GE P32-8 locomotive so that it burned a 20 percent biodiesel mix made from beef tallow. It ran on the Heartland Flyer route between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas. The beef-powered train earned Amtrak a spot on Time’s list of the 50 best inventions in that year.
Says Murphy: “We are constantly working with the engineers to make the locomotives as green as they can be.”
Fifty years ago, physicist Nick Holonyak was tinkering with lasers in his GE lab when he discovered the world’s first light-emitting diode. “We knew what happened and that we had a powerful way of converting electric current directly into light,” Holonyak says. “We had the ultimate lamp.” His team called it “the Magic One.”
LEDs, which are much more efficient than ordinary light bulbs, are quickly becoming as common as a slice of bread, illuminating everything from TV sets and iPads to entire cities. LEDs made by GE will light up hundreds of new and remodeled Walmart stores over the next two years in the U.S., U.K, Asia, Mexico, Central America and Latin America.
The LEDs will help the stores reduce their energy needs for lighting by 40 percent on average. Walmart says that the savings will help it keep prices low.
LEDs made by GE will soon light up hundreds of new and remodeled Walmart stores in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America. Top image: The world’s first LED built by Nick Holonyak.
Walmart was one of the first retailers to bring LED lights to parking lots, signage and store appliances. In 2005, Walmart worked with GE on what may have been the first major rollout of an LED freezer case. “LEDs have become an integral part of our energy efficiency model for our stores and play a key role in achieving our overall sustainability goals,” said Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “We have worked to find and scale energy-efficient LED lighting solutions that are cost effective and high quality, and now working with GE, we’re paving the way to make this a mainstream solution for the retail industry.”
Walmart picked GE LEDs, in part, based on the results of a pilot program at the retailer’s first all-LED supercenter in South Euclid, Ohio. Starting in October last year, the retailer had studied lighting quality, efficiency and savings. “We’ve had a long and successful relationship with Walmart, increasing our environmental efforts together,” said Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO.
Walmart will be using LED ceiling fixtures from GE’s ecomagination program. The total energy savings from LEDs could amount to 620 million kWh over the next decade – enough to power 5,600 U.S. homes over the same period.
Walmart will start installing the GE LEDs this month in stores in the U.K.
“When I went in, I didn’t realize all that we were going to do,” says LED inventor Holonyak, now 85 years old but still teaching engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “As far as I am concerned, the modern LED starts at GE.”