Though small in stature, the turbine in the photos could contribute to solving some of the world’s biggest energy challenges, not to mention powering an entire town, says Doug Hofer, a steam turbine specialist at GE Global Research.
Full disclosure: The model in Hofer’s hand was 3D-printed from plastic. The real functional version of the turbine, made from high-strength metal, would make the scientist hold up about 150 pounds. But even that’s like lifting a feather. Machines generating this kind of power typically weigh several tons.
The medium spinning this turbine isn’t steam but carbon dioxide, squeezed and heated so high that it forms a supercritical fluid. At that level, the difference between gas and liquid basically disappears and gives the CO2 marvelous properties that the turbine harnesses for superefficient power generation.
GE Reports recently ran a piece showing how this turbine can help energy companies turn CO2 into cleaner power.One is looking at using this technology to increase the efficiency of centralized power plants.
Hofer and his team are gathering insights that could allow them to scale the technology to the 500 megawatt range — enough to power a large city. The research could lead to smaller “large” turbines that are more efficient in the future.