The General Electric Company of Schenectady, NY, is a major American innovator, involved with the development of technology infrastructure, energy systems and many consumer technologies. The wide scope of this business’s activities makes them a regular feature in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. See General Electric articles for our features on GE.
Recent reports from multiple news outlets announced that General Electric was moving on from plans to develop solar energy power plants by selling it’s solar technology to First Solar Inc., an American developer of solar panels. At the same time, GE is looking to increase its presence in the aviation industry. The early August acquisition of Avio Aero, an Italian developer of military and civil aircraft systems, is a step in this direction for the corporation.
Today, we check in with General Electric to see what technological systems it’s trying to protect through the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many of the published USPTO documents we feature here discuss improvements to energy systems. These include two patent applications, one that would protect smart energy storage for in-home water heaters and another that would protect a system of monitoring damage to power cables. An issued patent discusses GE’s development of a self-healing electrical power grid.
We also take a look at two other patent applications that showcase General Electric’s activities in other areas of consumer and industrial innovation. One application is filed to protect a detachable dishwasher door that makes it easier for technicians to provide maintenance. One final application we include discusses a system of trapping gaseous carbon dioxide exhaust from power plants in a solid state.
Self-Healing Power Grid and Method Thereof
U.S. Patent No. 8504214
An electrical power grid is a very complex system made up of many electrical networks and connections. A grid is responsible for controlling the access to electrical power for utility subscribers with connections to the grid. Because of the system’s complexity, small issues often build up and can cause some components to operate at a lower capacity or to stop operating altogether because of malfunction. The stress that this creates for neighboring elements on the grid, which must work harder to compensate for damaged components, can lead to grid damage or power outages.
Recently, the USPTO awarded General Electric the right to protect a system of damage monitoring for power grids. The monitoring system determines the “current infectiousness rate”, or the current operational state, of grid components. This monitoring system can adjust the operating capacity of grid components if it determines a change in any component’s infectiousness rate. In this way, the grid can prevent against excessive load strain because of damaged components.
As Claim 1 states, General Electric has been issued a patent that protects:
“A method for determining a self-healing power grid status, comprising: receiving respective real-time monitoring data corresponding to one or more power grid components, wherein one or more agents are coupled to said power grid components; determining a respective current infectiousness state based upon the received respective real-time monitoring data; determining respective output data based upon the respective current infectiousness state; exchanging the respective output data with one or more neighboring agents; generating one or more state transition probabilities based upon one or more parameters and a state transition diagram; and generating a respective new infectiousness state based upon the one or more state transition probabilities.”
U.S. Patent App. No. 20130193819
Contemporary dishwashers typically use a hinged door to allow access to the inner cabinet, where dishes can be stacked for washing. However, the door is often removed when performing maintenance on a dishwasher, which is difficult to do without removing the dishwasher from its enclosure. This is cumbersome because of the need to disconnect plumbing and electrical lines, and can also damage a kitchen floor.
This patent application describes a new design for a detachable dishwasher door developed by General Electric. The system allows for a dishwasher door to be detached from the rest of the appliance by sliding the hinge free from a bracket on the door. When the hinge is removed, it frees the fastener connections securing the door’s bracket flanges to the dishwasher.
Claim 1 of this patent application seeks protection for:
“An appliance comprising: a cabinet defining a chamber; a door removably mounted to said cabinet, said door providing selective access to the chamber of said cabinet, said door defining a pocket at a corner of said door, said door also defining a flange located adjacent the pocket; a bracket configured for receipt into the pocket of said door, said bracket having a first end defining a channel with a c-shaped profile, the first end of said bracket also defining a projection for mating receipt of the flange of said door, said bracket also having a second end spaced apart longitudinally from the first end of said bracket, the second end of said bracket defining a tab, the tab being disposed orthogonal to the flange of said door; a hinge positioned at the pocket of said door, said hinge having a first end positioned inside the channel of said bracket, said hinge also having a second end spaced apart longitudinally from the first end of said hinge, the second end of said hinge defining an extension, the extension being disposed orthogonal to the flange of said door, the extension also being positioned adjacent the tab of said bracket; and a fastener positioned adjacent the tab of said bracket and the extension of said hinge, the fastener selectively coupling the tab and the extension together.”
Systems and Method for Capturing Carbon Dioxide
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130202517
Carbon dioxide gas emissions are a major contributor to the “greenhouse” effect that has caused temperatures to rise across the world over the past century or so. Power plants are considered to be a major producer of carbon dioxide emissions, and many methods have been developed to capture CO2 trapped in exhaust gas from power plants. Liquid solvents can be used to trap CO2 gas in an aqueous solution. However, the large amount of liquid solvent needed to trap the gas makes it economically unviable for many.
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This patent application, filed by General Electric, was filed to protect a new system of trapping carbon dioxide in a solid state after trapping it as a gas. CO2 exhaust gas from power plants would be diverted into a chamber where it would contact a liquid phase-changing sorbent. This liquid substance would be chemically reactive with CO2 so that it converts carbon dioxide into its solid state. This prevents the gas from being dispersed into the atmosphere and saves it as a solid for later disposal.
Claim 1 of this General Electric patent application would protect:
“A method for forming carbon dioxide from a gas stream, comprising: chemically reacting carbon dioxide in a gas stream with a liquid phase-changing sorbent to form a solid reaction product, wherein the solid reaction product is in the form of a dry solid, a wet solid, a slurry, or a fine suspension; storing the solid reaction product; and heating the solid reaction product to form carbon dioxide gas and the liquid phase-changing sorbent.”
Heated Water Energy Storage System
U.S. Patent App. No. 20130202277
The energy used to heat water in a residence can be anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent of that home’s total energy use. Many areas of the country where electricity is scarcer and grid demands are high, the cost of a kilowatt-hour (kWh) may vary throughout the day in response to peak demand times. Off-peak hours may cost 6 cents per kWh, while high demand can send prices soaring to $1.20 per kWh in certain areas. However, it’s difficult to change behaviors regarding water heating, as showers, washing machines and dishwashers are often operated during peak demand hours.
General Electric has recently filed this patent application with the USPTO, which describes a system of storing energy for later use in water heating. A thermostat in the hot water storage detects the temperature of stored water and sends a control message to an electricity provider if more energy is required. This system would keep hot water temperature within an optimal range while drawing electricity during non-peak hours for later use.
As Claim 1 explains, this patent application seeks the right to protect:
“A water heater energy storage system, comprising: a storage tank that stores water; at least one heating element disposed with the storage tank; a thermostatic controller that senses and regulates tank water temperature; a signal communication device in communication with a utility that sends and receives system information; and a controller configured to regulate the system based on communications between the signal communication device and the utility.”
System and Method for Health Monitoring of Power Cables
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130194101
Electrical current leakage from power cables can create a dangerous atmosphere for those nearby. Beyond the fact that direct contact with electricity can be fatal, leakage can contribute to damage to electrical systems, which can result in system failure or increased electrical fire risks. In some electrical cables, shields are installed that divert current leakage to a grounded line and away from others.
The system General Electric describes in this patent application would be able to detect the level of current leakage drawn by the cable shields. A transducer included on the cable’s health monitoring system would measure this leakage and send a current signal to the utility provider that indicates the health of the power line. If the leakage exceeds a certain level, an alarm signal is generated that can shut off the power and prevent damage.
Claim 1 of this patent application would give General Electric the right to protect:
“A power cable health monitoring system, comprising: a shield surrounding a power cable and configured to divert leakage current from the power cable to ground; a current transducer configured to measure the leakage current and output a current signal corresponding to the leakage current; and a processor configured to receive the current signal and output an indication of the power cable health based on the current signal.”