Rolls-Royce has completed the first successful tests of the world’s biggest jet engine, the UltraFan. The UK engineering business, which is headquartered in Derby and has a base near Bristol, says when it goes into operation the engine will offers a 25 per cent fuel efficiency improvement on the first generation of Trent engines.
The initial demonstrator tests have been completed at the world’s biggest jet engine testbed, which was installed at couple of years ago in Derby following a £90 million investment. The tests were done using 100 per cent Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) provided by Air bp – as part of Rolls-Royce's ambition to help aviation reach net zero carbon by 2050. Current jet engines are among the biggest contributors to global carbon emissions.
The chemical and physical characteristics of the sustainable fuel – which comes from sources such as cooking oil, plant oils, municipal waste, waste gases, and agricultural residues – are almost identical to conventional jet fuel and can be safely mixed with it.
SAF can also use the same supply infrastructure and does not need aircraft or engines to be adapted.
The milestone was the first time in 54 years the aero-engine manufacturer has tested a new engine architecture and was an example, the business said, of what can be achieved when industry and Governments work together.
Rolls-Royce said the UltraFan delivers a 10 per cent efficiency improvement over the Trent XWB, which it said is already the world’s most efficient large aero engine in service.
In the nearer term, there are options to transfer technologies from the UltraFan development programme to current Trent engines, improving availability, reliability and efficiency.
In the longer term, the UltraFan should be available to power new narrowbody and widebody aircraft in the 2030s.
Rolls-Royce Plc chief executive Tufan Erginbilgic said: “The UltraFan demonstrator is a game changer – the technologies we are testing as part of this programme have the capability to improve the engines of today as well as the engines of tomorrow.
“That is why this announcement is so important – we are witnessing history in the making; a step-change in engine efficiency improvement.
“When combined with Sustainable Aviation Fuels, more efficient gas turbine engines will be key to hitting the industry’s target of Net Zero flight by 2050. Today we are closer to achieving this ambition.
“Collaboration is key in driving the decarbonisation of air travel and the UltraFan programme is a great example of what can be achieved when government and industry come together with a common purpose.”
The UltraFan project has been supported by the UK Government through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Innovate UK, the EU’s Clean Sky programmes plus LuFo and the State of Brandenburg in Germany.