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As we have discussed previously, through electrification, we can make energy production cleaner, more robust and sustainable. Electric machines are more efficient, more capable and require less maintenance. Drawing from this solid foundation, future electrical machines will generate power with higher density, higher efficiency and allow for a higher degree of integration.
Using new materials inside this electric equipment is another innovative way to increase efficiencies—for example, the use of Silicon Carbide (SiC)-based power semiconductor devices in inverter technology. SiC, a synthetically produced crystalline compound of silicon and carbon, was first discovered in an attempt to produce artificial diamonds and shares many of its properties, including strength and resistance to high temperatures. These features, combined with electrical conductivity with 10 times faster switching and heat losses reduced by half, make the material the ideal substitute for traditional semiconductors, giving it the potential to completely transform the power conversion methods used today.
Intelligent machines increasing productivity and efficiency
Adding intelligence to machines also increases productivity and efficiency. In GE's Brilliant Factories, it is optimizing performance by embedding sensors throughout all machines and operations. By putting this "digital thread" through all operations, the machines can talk to one another, enabling them to work efficiently and intelligently with increased speed, less waste and decreased unplanned downtime. This is because, by connecting and listening to machines, GE is able to recognize if (and when) they may fail and move to fix them faster—resulting in higher availability, lower costs and improved quality.
From the shop floor to equipment performance, electrification is in expansion. While the benefits of electrification are already being felt, the development in the industrial world must be accelerated. Understanding this, GE's aim is to put "electric" back into General Electric to ensure it is at the forefront of the electric wave.
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About the Author
Dr. Richard Zhang is the Technology Executive at GE's Power Conversion. Prior to that, he was the Global Electrification Leader of GE Oil & Gas, leading development of high power drives for oil & gas applications. From 1998 to 2008, he was the lab manager of Electronic Power Conversion Lab at GE Global Research Center in New York. Elsewhere, Richard had won four Best Paper Awards for publication on IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics and IEEE Transactions on Industrial Application. He has published over 44 conference and journal papers, and held over 36 issued and pending patents. He also serves as Chairperson on Industry Advisory Board for Center for Power Electronics Systems at Virginia Tech.
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