Rolls-Royce Completes First Tests on UltraFan Demonstrator
Rolls-Royce has completed the first tests of its radical UltraFan geared engine design, the British aero-engine maker said Thursday during a special event held at its factory in Derby, UK.
The UltraFan technology demonstrator will now pave the way for the manufacturer to start developing a scaled range of engines, using the technology to offer a portfolio of two-shaft, three-shaft, direct drive, and geared propulsion systems.
Rolls-Royce is developing the UltraFan’s scalable technology, ranging in thrust from 25,000 pounds to 110,000 pounds, to power new narrowbody and widebody aircraft expected to enter service in the 2030s. The company expects the engines to deliver a 10 percent efficiency improvement over the Trent XWB.
At the event in Derby, the business signaled the historic nature of the initial testing of the UltraFan, marking the first time in 54 years that Rolls-Royce had tested a new engine architecture.
Speaking at the event, Rolls-Royce chief technology officer Grazia Vittadini characterized the architecture designed for ultra-high bypass ratios as “literally bristling with cutting edge technologies from front all the way to the back.”
Additional innovations include a new, proven Advance3 core architecture combined with Rolls-Royce’s ALECSys lean burn combustion system; carbon titanium fan blades and composite casing; a geared design that delivers efficient power for high-thrust; and a power gearbox that has run at 64 megawatts, an aerospace record.
Reporting on future testing activities, Vittadini said the initial program would last about three months. “Integration is the secret sauce so it's all about bringing these technologies together to really unleash engine improvement,” she added. “There are also some risks as there are a lot of first steps and as we are venturing into uncharted territory, we need to proceed very carefully.
“We are carefully opening the operational envelope, making sure that we can provide basic functional capabilities to demonstrate that all these technologies are coming together. It's an instrumented engine and there are more than 2,800 instrumented parameters, meaning a vast, massive amount of data. We're talking about terabytes of data and we will be using real-time data processing to make sure that we can visualize the key aspects of engine behavior as we run the tests.”
In the nearer term, Vittadini said, opportunities to transfer technologies from the UltraFan development program to Trent engines would deliver greater availability, reliability, and efficiency. “That amazing hot section and all the material technologies destined for the UltraFan have already been identified for use in Trent engine updates and evolution,” she noted. “And there are further elements of the package where we're really thinking out of the box and where we're considering them for potentially adjacent industry use.”