Rolls-Royce’s have begun construction of their new UltraFan aero-engine, which is designed to help the aviation industry’s transition to more sustainable technologies.
The manufacturer is touting the engine as the ‘world’s largest’ in an ambitious project which is set to complete the works on a demonstrator engine by the end of 2021.
A big engine with even bigger goals
The UltraFan represents the cutting-edge of new engine technologies. Manufactured in the United Kingdom at Rolls-Royce’s DemoWorks in Derby, the UltraFan could establish the basis for an exciting new series of engines from the manufacturer.
The president of Rolls-Royce, Chris Cholerton said the UltraFan was, “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”.
The company is targeting use for both widebody and narrowbody aircraft of the present and future, with a new efficient design. One of the primary goals for the engineers behind the UltraFan, is achieving maximum efficiency without producing the emissions of its predecessors.
To make this happen, the engine will be equipped with the new Advance 3 core architecture and the ALECSys combustion system- designed to lower emissions without reducing its thrust power. Carbon titanium fan blades will keep the UltraFan as light as possible, and could reduce weight by 1,500lb for each aircraft.
Coupling that is a ceramic matrix composite (CMC) for ensuring the engine’s effectiveness in high pressure turbine temperatures.
But many will be impressed by the sheer size of the Ultrafan. There is a 140inch (355.6cm) fan diameter on the UF001, demonstrator model currently in production. It is believed that the increase fan diameter for the Ultrafan series will benefit the engine in its goals of maintaining efficiency at low emissions.
Each fan blade also has a digital twin as part of Rolls-Royce’s IntelligentEngine vision software. This allows engineers to collect data from 10,000 parameters on the Ultrafan and maintain and observe in-service performance.
“Enormous environmental and economic benefits”
The UltraFan is a next step move in Rolls-Royce’s environmental targets. The British aerospace manufacturer is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 0% in all facilities and operations by 2030. The Ultrafan’s 25% fuel efficiency increase over its predecessor the first generation of Trent engine, will be a vital step in ensuring this happens.
Although electric jet engine technology is improving rapidly, Rolls-Royce remain under the impression that gas turbines will remain the mainstay for long-haul aviation. However, this doesn’t necessarily entail high emissions from the UltraFan, as 100% sustainable aviation fuels will be used in the testing stages of the engine.
Numerous investors have supplied funding for the project, including the Aerospace Technology Institute, the UK and German governments, and the EU. The UltraFan’s environmental potential is significant, and many parties have interest in ensuring that the demonstrator production goes smoothly. Chris Cholerton said,
“I am delighted that the UK and German governments have supported us in making these significant ground-breaking technology investments. The Aerospace Technology Institute and LuFo programmes, as well as the EU’s Clean Sky, have all helped bring us a step closer to realising the enormous environmental and economic benefits of UltraFan.”
With numerous green initiatives launched by Rolls-Royce so far in 2021, we can expect that the company will continue to focus on environmental projects in the post-COVID-19 rebuild.
Words by Jonathan Ritchie