GE Global Research, the technology development arm of the General Electric Company, and the Technical University of Munich (TUM), signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a world-class carbon composites manufacturing Center of Excellence on the TUM campus in Garching, near Munich, Germany. The Center of Excellence will focus on automated manufacturing of complex composite structures for use in wind turbines, jet engines, and deep sea oil & gas applications.
Automated manufacturing of carbon composites addresses the key challenges in industrialization by reducing cost, improving quality, and increasing the rate and speed of production. This technology is intended to provide a significant improvement over today’s carbon composite manufacturing processes and is to enable a new suite of commercial applications not practical or possible today.
These applications include the development of a longer, advanced wind blade for increased wind capture and stronger risers to enable high-pressure deep-sea oil exploration and production.
The Center of Excellence will benefit from Global Research Europe’s carbon composites manufacturing lab, which opened in September 2007, and the TUM’s newly created Lehrstuhl Carbon Composite (LCC) institute, led by Professor Dr. Klaus Drechsler. The establishment of the LCC at the TUM has been enabled through an endowment by SGL Carbon SE, headquartered in Wiesbaden, which is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of carbon-based products.
Composites, consisting of carbon fibers and resins, are stronger than the metals that they replace and also are lighter weight, which allows for new product design and enables product efficiency such as fuel savings. GE Aviation used composites in the fan blade of the GE90 jet engine, which was commercialized in the mid 1990s and have since expanded the use to the fan case for the GEnx. In both engines, reductions in weight due to use of carbon composites have led to improved fuel economy and performance over previous-generation engines. GE researchers are applying carbon composite technology to wind turbine blades, which could ultimately result in weight savings of 30%.