Rolls Royce is in the final stages of building its UltraFan demonstrator and plans to begin testing the aero-engine before the end of the year
The UltraFan will be the world’s largest jet engine when complete and has a fan diameter of 140 inches, (3.5m). The world’s most powerful jet engine, the GE9X, has a fan diameter of 134 inches (3.4 meters).
Speaking at this year’s Farnborough Airshow, Alan Newby, director of aerospace technology and future programmes said, “It’s not a matter of testing the UltraFan, rather a question of integrating proven components.”
These components include the ALECSys lean-burn combustion system , Advance3 engine core, Advanced Low Pressure System (ALPS) and Power Gearbox (PGN), which has been tested in its Dahlewitz facility, Germany at up to 87,000hp – and the IPT (intermediate pressure turbine) – developed in Spain.
The UltraFan demonstrator is being built with future aviation fuels and technologies at the forefront of its operational capabilities testing. Newby said, “We expect to see a 40% improvement in NOx output, 35% less noise and 50% less non-volatile matter.”
Preliminary testing of the UltraFan technology will use 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), a first for the Trent program. “This coincides with our hydrogen ground testing program,” said Newby.
He added that Rolls-Royce’s Testbed 80 facility has already hosted a 2MW hybrid-electric test as part of ongoing attempts at micro-hybridization.
Micro-hybridization would enable the use of stored energy to optimize engine performance throughout a flight cycle to further reduce fuel consumption.
“With the Advance3 core we’re pushing the overall ratio and we are putting the temperature up,” said Newby.
The adoption of a high-bypass ratio within the core, and carbon composite and ceramic matrix composite materials throughout the gearbox and turbine architecture should push a 25% increase in efficiency when compared to the Trent 700.
Over 3000 parameters of instrumentation will be present during the testing program, courtesy of its £90m (US$107m) Testbed 80 facility in Derby. Further testing on the low temperature operability of the engine will be conducted in Rolls Royce’ Global Aerospace Centre for Icing and Environmental Research (GLACIER) facility in Manitoba.
Though doubt was cast on the viability of the program during the Covid-19 pandemic, the application and scalability of the UltraFan – from narrowbody aircraft at 20,000lbs thrust, up to and potentially exceeding widebody applications at 100,000lbs of thrust – will be crucial in pushing the program forward. “We will try and drip feed some of these technologies into the Trent family,” said Newby.