Rolls-Royce is preparing to test a prototype of its UltraFan engine, the world's largest turbofan, which is designed to slash carbon emissions in the coming years amid the aviation industry's sustainability push.
The London-based company has completed building the demonstrator turbine on its UltraFan programme, transporting it to its purpose-built Testbed 80 in Derby where it has been mounted in preparation for testing early next year, Rolls-Royce said.
“Seeing the UltraFan demonstrator come together and getting ready for test in Testbed 80 is a great way to end the year … The next stage will be to see UltraFan run for the first time on 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel in 2023, proving the technology is ready to support more sustainable flight in the future,” Chris Cholerton, president of Rolls-Royce civil aerospace unit, said.
In addition to working to improve the efficiency of gas turbines, the UK-based engine maker is working on nascent hydrogen and hybrid electric technologies to power commuter and regional aircraft. European plane-maker Airbus is exploring a new aircraft model that would be powered by liquid hydrogen, making it completely carbon free.
Rolls-Royce's UltraFan demonstrator has a fan diameter of 140 inches and offers a 25 per cent fuel efficiency improvement compared with the first generation of Trent engine, according to the company.
The UltraFan programme is designed to offer a variety of sustainability options to back the aviation industry's shift towards net-zero by 2050.
In the near term, there are options to transfer technologies from the UltraFan development programme to current Trent engines to deliver better fuel efficiency and reductions in emissions.
In the longer term, UltraFan’s scalable technology delivers the potential to further improve fuel efficiency of both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft by up to 10 per cent, according to Rolls-Royce.
Testbed 80 in Derby, which opened in 2020, was designed and built specifically to accommodate the size and technical complexity of the UltraFan demonstrator.
The UltraFan engine prototype's first test run will use 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel, a jet fuel replacement that is expected to play a key role in cutting net emissions in the coming few years, but is currently expensive and in short supply.