Notre Dame, GE partner in turbine research

The University of Notre Dame and General Electric Co. announced plans Thursday to work together to b

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame and General Electric Co. announced plans Thursday to work together to build a $36 million research and test facility with the goal of making better massive gas turbines used by aircraft, power plants and the oil and gas industry.

The partnership, which also includes the city, Indiana and a private equity firm, is expected to create research opportunities for Notre Dame and other universities, technological advances for GE and other companies and economic development for South Bend.

The facility will have five test bays that will allow researchers to simulate full-scale engine operating environments. The turbo machines run under high stress and temperatures so hot that the metal used would melt if not for the proper technology, said Rick Stanley, vice president and chief technology officer for GE’s Power and Water business.

“Trying to make that stuff work more efficiently and more reliably takes an incredible commitment of scientists and engineers to keep pushing the boundaries to make things better — new materials, new material science, new cooling technology, new ways to put the pieces together mechanically,” Stanley said. “Part of this facility is going to be dedicated just to that, pushing in to the next generation.”

Robert Bernhard, Notre Dame vice president for research, said the facility will give professors and students opportunities to conduct research available at few places worldwide. He said companies other than GE will use the facility and Notre Dame plans to collaborate with researchers at other universities.

The facility is expected to create 60 jobs with an average salary and benefits package of about $79,000, and also draw more jobs from support companies the Notre Dame Turbomachinery Facility is expected to attract.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer at a technology park south of downtown South Bend that once was the site of the Studebaker Corp., which closed in 1963.

Great Lakes Capital is providing about $6 million for construction of the 43,000-square-foot building. Notre Dame plans to lease about 25,000 square feet of the building. Jeff Smoke, Great Lakes Capital’s director of development, said the company hopes related businesses will move in to the rest of the building.

GE has committed $13.5 million to fund research and testing for five years while Notre Dame plans to contribute $7.5 million and the city of South Bend is contributing $4.4 million. The state of Indiana, through the Indiana Economic Development Corp., is providing up to $600,000 in training grants and up to $2 million in infrastructure assistance. Indiana Michigan Power will invest $2 million in a new substation.

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