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Surprising Science

MRI Magnets Make Wind Turbines More Efficient

The same high-tech magnets used in MRI machines may soon be used to make wind turbines more efficient, thereby generating more clean energy from the wind.

What’s the Latest Development?

The high-tech magnets in modern MRI systems—usually used to create scans of body tissue—may soon generate electricity from the wind, according to researchers at the General Electric Company. They say they can apply their MRI expertise to make a more powerful and cost efficient wind turbine and the U.S. Department of Energy recently granted GE’s research arm $3 million to get started.

What’s the Big Idea?

The goal is a wind turbine able to operate in the 10 to 15 megawatt range. One MW can power between 240 and 300 U.S. homes per year. Most wind turbines in the market are in the 2-4 MW range. GE’s new turbine technology is also a direct-drive system, considered more robust than traditional systems that connect the rotor shaft to a gearbox.


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