The World’s Largest Aircraft Engine Is Underway

  • Rolls-Royce announced the construction of its UltraFan engine.
  • The fan is over 11 feet across and made of carbon titanium blades.
  • The engine saves a neat 25 percent emissions over Rolls-Royce’s original Trent turbofan.

There’s a new, more fuel-efficient airliner engine on the scene, as Rolls-Royce has started work on its UltraFan aero engine. The gigantic fan engine gets 25 percent better mileage compared with its predecessor, and Rolls-Royce says it will revolutionize passenger and cargo flight around the world.

The first demonstrator engine will be finished by the end of 2021. Rolls-Royce revealed more details in a statement:

“As engine build starts, other key parts are already coming together for delivery to Derby. Work is underway on UltraFan’s carbon titanium fan system in Bristol, UK, and its 50MW Power Gearbox, which is powerful enough to run 500 family cars, in Dahlewitz, Germany.”

UltraFan is a gas turbine turbofan, meaning it’s gas-powered and operates using a traditional spinning prop fan—in this case, a fan that’s more than 11 feet in diameter. The design is the first in a brand new line of turbofans that seeks to replace Rolls-Royce’s iconic Trent line of turbofans, which have operated since 1990.

Rolls-Royce has committed to zero net greenhouse gases by 2030, and the UltraFan is being designed to run on sustainable jet fuels. “Gas turbines will continue to be the bedrock of long-haul aviation for many years, and UltraFan’s efficiency will help improve the economics of an industry transition to more sustainable fuels, which are likely to be more expensive in the short-term than traditional jet fuel,” Rolls-Royce said.

The UltraFan’s enormous size pairs with Rolls-Royce’s state-of-the-art core and the ALECSys lean burn combustion system to help keep emissions as low as possible for a gas-powered jetliner. The UltraFan may be huge, but it also reduces the weight of an aircraft by 1,500 pounds because of space age materials and careful design. 

These materials include advanced ceramic matrix composite parts and carbon titanium fan blades that are ultra strong while keeping weight down.

Behind the scenes, the engine is outfitted with software and sensors that are similar forward thinking: 

“[E]ach fan blade has a digital twin which stores real-life test data, allowing engineers to predict in-service performance. When on test at Rolls-Royce’s new £90m Testbed 80 facility, data can be taken from more than 10,000 parameters, detecting the tiniest of vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples per second.”

This level of micro-shaving of weight with an eye on emissions makes the engine more like a play out of the supercar design handbook. Rolls-Royce is doing the equivalent of tossing out the unneeded passenger seat and cushy passenger suspension in order to cut weight.

Source: Popular Mechanics