For the second year in a row, the editors at MIT Technology Review (TR), a leading publication covering global technology and innovation, named GE on the 50 Disruptive Companies list, the magazine’s pick of the “most innovative companies in the world, spanning energy and materials, Internet and digital media, computing and communications, biomedicine, and transportation.”
TR recognized GE for innovations in the energy and materials field.
TR’s staff selected the companies on the list for their business model, strategies for deploying and scaling technologies, and market impact. “Each company on this list has done something over the past year that will strengthen its hold on a market, challenge the leaders of a market, or create a new market,” said Brian Bergstein, TR’s deputy editor.
The list includes the usual suspects like Apple, Google and Samsung, as well as upstarts like SpaceX, Square, and Nest.
GE scientists and engineers have a long record of developing revolutionary materials like ceramic matrix composites (CMCs), which GE introduced in 2011. Heat equals power in jet engine design, and parts made from CMCs help GE engineers build more fuel efficient jet engines and gas turbines because they can operate at temperatures as high as 2,400 F, well beyond any advanced alloy.
(The video below shows a CMC strength test where GE researchers shot a CMC panel with a steel bullet flying at 150 miles per hour. The bullet bounced back like a tennis ball.)
GE engineers also designed the machines for manufacturing CMC parts. The machines cover ceramic fibers with a special durable coating, form the fibers into tapes, cut the tapes into panels of desired shapes, and fuse the panels in a furnace.
GE workers make from CMCs ceramic turbine shrouds, combustor liners, turbine blades and other parts for gas turbines and jet engines like the new LEAP engine.
“The pace of technological change is brutal,” observed TR’s Bergstein. “Even Apple, which we have selected for this package four years in a row, has to scramble.” Bergstein said that “only 15 of these 50 companies were also here last year.” GE was one of them.
In 2012 TR recognized GE’s “aeroderivative” gas turbines as a “key innovation” for “building flexible and efficient natural gas power plants.” The turbines use modified jet engines to generate electricity. They can crank up from cold iron to full power in as little as 10 minutes. This makes them a good fit for utilities seeking to blend renewables into the grid and quickly replace lost wind power when it stops blowing.
TR, which first came out in 1899, is the world’s longest-running technology magazine. It is published by an independent media company owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.