Sep 21

Rolls-Royce powers up with UltraFan jet engine

Asia Times
Mar 30, 2021
There is a reason why the expression, “The Rolls-Royce of … (fill in the blank)” … continues to hold meaning today.
It is meant to exemplify, the best of. And it doesn’t really matter what it might be, for that legendary standard of excellence, lives on today.
Take aerospace, for example, where Rolls is an industry-leading manufacturer.
Having already developed the popular ‘Trent’ engine family, it has also made a start on the demonstrator for its new “UltraFan” — the world’s largest aircraft engine — at its dedicated DemoWorks facility in Derby in the UK, AINonline and SimpleFlying reported.
The news comes just over two months after Rolls-Royce announced that it had completed the first engine run on its new £90 million (US$125 million) testbed.
Known as Testbed 80, this is the largest facility of its kind in the world. Once the UltraFan demonstrator is complete, Rolls-Royce will run data-driven tests at this facility.
To become the largest aero engine in the world, the UltraFan features a 140-inch fan diameter and forms the basis for a potential new family of engines capable of delivering a 25% fuel efficiency improvement over the first-generation Trent turbofan.
The company expects to complete work on the UltraFan’s demonstrator engine by the end of the year.
According to Reuters, the famed British firm has been hit harder than most by the pandemic, with much of its income disappearing when airlines stopped flying, leaving it to post a record US$5.6 billion underlying loss in 2020.
Notwithstanding recent talk of hydrogen and electrically powered aircraft, the UltraFan’s efficiency will help improve the economics of an industry transition to more sustainable fuels.
The company also plans to run the first test of the engine on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
“Our first engine demonstrator, UF001, is now coming together and I’m really looking forward to seeing it built and ready for test,” said Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace president Chris Cholerton.
“It is arriving at a time when the world is seeking ever more sustainable ways to travel in a post-Covid 19 world, and it makes me and all our team very proud to know we are part of the solution.”
Several parties have contributed funding for the development of the UltraFan demonstrator and associated technologies by Rolls-Royce and a variety of funding agencies, including the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK (United Kingdom), LuFo (Germany), and the Clean Sky Joint Undertaking (European Union).
“The UltraFan project is a perfect example of how we are working with industry to deliver green, sustainable flight for decades to come,” said UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
“Backed with significant government support, this project represents the scale of ambition for Britain’s crucial aerospace sector.”
As engine build starts, suppliers continue to make other key parts for delivery to Derby.
Work has started on the UltraFan’s carbon titanium fan system in Bristol, UK, and its 50MW power gearbox in Dahlewitz, Germany.
Rolls considers the UltraFan part of what it calls its IntelligentEngine vision; for example, each fan blade has a digital twin that stores real-life test data, allowing engineers to predict in-service performance.
When on test at Rolls-Royce’s new £90 million Testbed 80 facility, engineers can take data from more than 10,000 parameters, detecting the tiniest of vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples per second.
Key engineering features of the engine include an Advance 3 core architecture and the company’s ALECSys lean-burn combustion system, meant to deliver maximum fuel burn efficiency and low emissions.
Carbon titanium fan blades and a composite casing reduce weight by up to 1,500 pounds per aircraft, while advanced ceramic matrix composite (CMC) components operate more effectively in high-pressure turbine temperatures.
Finally, it features a geared design that delivers efficient power for future high-thrust, high bypass ratio engines.
Rolls-Royce expects to continue testing UltraFan engines into at least 2023 as it commits to the market availability of a new product by the turn of the decade, the company told AINonline in January.
Some analysts have speculated that UltraFan, a geared gas turbine, could be overtaken by new low-carbon technologies, Reuters reported.
But Rolls said gas turbines would be the bedrock of long-haul aviation for many years, and UltraFan’s efficiency would help the transition to more sustainable fuels which could be more expensive in the short term than traditional jet fuel.
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