As part of my on-going job hunt, I spent the day interviewing at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York (near Albany). I was invited to interview with the Thermal Systems Lab (TSL), which is the Global Research Center’s go-to division to tackle heat transfer problems arising from all of GE’s products from aircraft engines to locomotives to power plants.
It turns out that the TSL manager who interviewed me, Dr. Todd Wetzel, keeps a blog covering on-going thermal science research at GE, which is worth a peak. I also interviewed with Dr. Ron Bunker, a 2002 ASME Fellow, who has made some outstanding contributions in film cooling of turbine blades. Film cooling is one technique utilized to increase the temperature withstood by individual blades; higher turbine temperature yields more efficient energy generation, among other benefits.
I had a full day of interviews, and I’m still trying to digest everything a saw. Nonetheless, GE’s TSL has some very impressive test facilities and several interesting derivative technologies in the pipeline, including a new technique to cool electronics with piezo-electric jets. One of GE’s core transportation- and energy-related research areas is locomotive power plants. This movie stars Jennifer Topinka, a GE researcher, and provides an interesting size scale comparison between truck-sized diesels and engines utilized on trains. Jenny also has a blog, providing an overview of her engine work and an opportunity for Q&A.
Jenny and her colleagues have figured out a way to meet the ever-tightening emissions standards imposed on diesel locomotives without sacrificing efficiency. It turns out that Jenny made the GE connection for me, and she is an MIT alumnae and dear friend. We survived thermodynamics together. So I don’t feel too embarrassed about giving her a shameless plug.
Speaking of plugs, during my ride between the hotel and the GE Global Research site, I passed the Lantham, NY corporate headquarters of Plug Power, which is arguably among the top fuel cell companies in the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to stop for a visit. Today was all about GE.