When it comes to the future of flight, GE Aviation sees sustainability at the core. Employees, customers and investors are expecting the innovative technologies GE Aviation is developing. These technologies are also critical to helping the aviation industry meet its goal of reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
On June 28, GE released its 2021 Sustainability Report highlighting how GE Aviation is rising to the challenge through technologies available now, such as advanced Ceramic Matrix Composite materials and GE’s 360 Foam Wash. Meanwhile, engineers around the world are already at work developing breakthrough technologies for the benefit of us all tomorrow, including testing of hybrid electric propulsion systems.
As the report also shares, when advancing engine and systems technologies, safety comes first.
Here are the report’s top five takeaways for GE Aviation:
1. Three new technology demonstration programs launched
GE Aviation is taking bold action to define and develop technologies for the next generation of engines, including launching three key efforts since June 2021 to explore new engine architectures, to develop hybrid-electric capability and to enable the use of alternative fuels. Achieving the industry’s goal of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 will require broad cooperation and significant investment across all sectors of the industry.
These efforts include a partnership between Airbus and CFM International, a 50-50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, to conduct flight tests of a hydrogen-powered engine; a partnership with NASA and Boeing to develop and fly a megawatt-class hybrid electric propulsion system; and CFM’s RISE Program, short for Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines, which includes an effort to develop and fly an advanced, open fan demonstrator along with other technologies.
The goal of the RISE Program is to achieve at least 20% lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared to today’s most efficient engines.
2. Improving efficiency of engines in service
At the same time, there is a significant opportunity to improve the efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions of engines already in operation. This includes continued work to advocate for policies that will enable a much larger supply of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which offers up to 80% less lifecycle carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel. In December, GE partnered with United Airlines to power the world’s first experimental flight with passengers using 100% SAF in one of the two engines, and all GE engines today are capable of using approved SAF for passenger operations.
Through GE Digital, customers have access to a series of emissions-reducing optimization software. GE is also developing and deploying new technologies like 360 Foam Wash, which enables airlines to recover performance of their engines by using a specially formulated solution that reduces built up deposits inside the engine, improving performance and reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
3. More efficient business operations is just as important as product emissions
How GE Aviation operates is also important, and GE’s goal is to be carbon neutral in its operations and facilities worldwide by 2030. To reach this goal, GE Aviation is moving on multiple fronts, including upgrading buildings to more energy efficient heating and cooling systems, seeking lower carbon energy sources to power sites and using lean practices to reduce waste—not only in manufacturing processes but also to reduce unnecessary lighting, electricity, water and other resource usage. Additionally, GE is exploring the use of SAF in engine and component test facilities.
Through internal efforts of the global teams across the business, GE Aviation facilities and operations have reduced their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by more than 20% since 2019.
4. The role of systems in electrification
GE Aviation’s Systems business continues to bring additional efficiencies to aircraft performance. These technologies include power generation, conversion and distribution systems focused on electrification, avionics solutions that optimize flight paths, and more efficient and quieter integrated propeller systems.
The Systems business has designed and manufactured power conversion, distribution and control systems for commercial aircraft for over 30 years. GE Aviation Systems continues to advance these products with technologies such as GE-developed silicon carbide transistors to increase efficiency, power density, thermal performance and reliability while protecting aircraft safety. These technologies are integral to the development of GE Aviation’s hybrid electric powertrain demonstrator with NASA, with development work taking place at the Electrical Power Integration System Center (EPISCenter) in Dayton, Ohio, and the Electrical Power Integration Centre in Cheltenham, UK. EPISCenter has the capacity to test hybrid or fully electric powertrains with up to 15 megawatts of available power.
5. Aviation industry united in net zero ambition
After GE announced its ambition in 2021 to be a net zero company by 2050, GE Aviation supported a similar 2050 goal set by Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) for net zero carbon emissions from flight. Also in 2021, GE Aviation’s Chief Engineer joined other Chief Technology Officers from across the industry to call for continued focus on sustainability in the aviation sector and to continue advancing state-of-the-art in aircraft and engine design to reduce carbon emissions. GE Aviation has joined the International Aerospace Environmental Group to support development of standards for reporting Scope 3 use of sold products emissions across the aerospace industry. These standards will help GE measure in a way that is consistent with other aviation stakeholders how the carbon intensity of GE engines is reduced over time through introduction of new technologies and services that reduce emissions.
The new Sustainability Report shares the first details on GE’s ambition to be a net zero company by 2050 for the Scope 3 emissions associated with the use of sold products. The report includes the company’s principles for approaching net zero and details how GE Aviation has paved a foundation, is delivering state of the art technology today, and is innovating breakthrough technologies for tomorrow.