Sandia’s new power-generating system, explained

For a few hours on April 12, engineers at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico were able to send electrons back into the Sandia-Kirtland Air Force Base electrical grid using a new type of power generating system. This small proof-of-concept, announced earlier this month, showed the team that their system—which they have been tinkering with since 2007—-was stable, controllable, and able to sync up well to the electrical grid. 

The new system, which the team purports could be more efficient than existing power-generating systems, is based off of a thermodynamics process described through a closed-loop Brayton cycle, and works similarly to a jet engine. Most jet engines are powered by an open Brayton cycle. Ambient air is brought in and compressed. Then, it’s…

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