Rolls-Royce has entered the final build phase for the UltraFan turbine engine, which it claims is the world’s largest aero-engine technology demonstrator. The company hopes the engine program will provide a suite of technologies to support sustainable air travel for “decades to come.”
Roll-Royce is completing the demonstrator engine, which has a fan diameter of 140 inches, at the company’s Derby, UK facility, in preparation for the first run, which will take place using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) later this year. According to Rolls-Royce, the engine offers a 25 percent fuel efficiency improvement when compared with the first generation of the Trent engine.
Considered key to the engine OEM’s sustainability strategy, the UltraFan program offers opportunities to transfer technologies to current Trent engines to achieve greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. In the longer term, the engine’s thrust range, from 25,000 to 100,000 pounds, will allow it to power narrow- and widebody aircraft not anticipated to enter service until the 2030s.
Rolls-Royce designed the UltraFan to accommodate fossil-based jet fuel and 100 percent SAF. The engine carries the potential for adaptation to hybrid-electric and hydrogen-based platforms. When the UltraFan undergoes testing at Rolls-Royce's new £90 million ($107 million) Testbed 80 facility, data will be captured from more than 10,000 parameters, detecting the tiniest of vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples per second.
“Rolls-Royce has long been synonymous with British excellence in engineering,” said UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. “Building the cutting-edge UltraFan demonstrator shows there’s no sign of this reputation slowing down, with Rolls-Royce playing a central role in our plans to capitalize on the global shift to cleaner, fuel-efficient flight.”
“Our UltraFan engine technology demonstrator is arriving just as the world is seeking transformative technology to deliver sustainability,” said Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce president for civil aerospace. “This program is a significant investment in the future and I am delighted that the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK, Germany’s LuFO [Federal Aviation Research Program], and the EU’s Clean Sky programs have all recognized the benefits of UltraFan and provided their support.”