Rolls-Royce enters final build phase on engine demonstrator, announces new hydrogen programme


Rolls-Royce has entered the final build phase for the world’s largest aero-engine technology demonstrator, UltraFan. The demonstrator engine, with a fan diameter of 140 inches, is being completed at the facility in Derby, UK, prior to its first run – on 100 percent Sustainable Aviation Fuel – later this year. It offers a 25 percent fuel efficiency improvement compared with the first generation of Trent engine.

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UltraFan supports a variety of sustainability solutions. In the nearer term, there are options to transfer technologies from the UltraFan development programme to current Trent engines to deliver even greater fuel efficiency and reductions in emissions. In the longer term, UltraFan’s scalable technology from 25,000-100,000lb thrust offers the potential to power new narrowbody and widebody aircraft anticipated in the 2030s.

UltraFan provides a platform for the use of a diverse range of energy options and power systems – including current jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuels as well as future potential for hybrid-electric and hydrogen.

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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Rolls-Royce has long been synonymous with British excellence in engineering. 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 capitalise on the global shift to cleaner, fuel efficient flight. UltraFan, backed by the UK Government through the Aerospace Technology Institute Programme, is a major opportunity for growth and jobs for the UK. I look forward to seeing planes across the world powered by technologies developed in this ultra-efficient engine demonstrator for years to come.”

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Chris Cholerton, President – Civil Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, said: “Our UltraFan engine technology demonstrator is arriving just as the world is seeking transformative technology to deliver sustainability. We are now in the final build phase and we will perform the first test run on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel later this year. The suite of technologies we are testing on the demonstrator will create opportunities to make improvements to our current fleet and provide new capability for future propulsion systems. This programme is a significant investment in the future and I am delighted that the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK, Germany’s LuFo and the EU’s Clean Sky programmes have all recognised the benefits of UltraFan and provided their support.”

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Key engineering features of the engine include:


  • A new, proven, Advance3 core architecture, combined with our ALECSys lean burn combustion system, to deliver maximum fuel burn efficiency and low emissions
  • Carbon titanium fan blades and a composite casing
  • Advanced ceramic matrix composite (CMC) components that operate more effectively at high pressures and temperatures
  • A geared design that delivers efficient power for the high-thrust, high bypass ratio engines of the future. The power gearbox has run at 64MW, an aerospace record

When UltraFan is on test at Rolls-Royce’s new £90 million Testbed 80 facility, data can be taken from more than 10,000 parameters, detecting the tiniest of vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples per second.

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Rolls-Royce announces new hydrogen programme

Rolls-Royce has announced a new leading-edge hydrogen programme and given a further update on its research into hybrid-electric power as it continues to pioneer new forms of aviation sustainability. Rolls-Royce is planning a comprehensive series of rig and engine tests to prove the fuel can safely and efficiently deliver power for small-mid size aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards.

Two ground tests are planned, on a Rolls-Royce AE 2100 engine in the UK this year and a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine at a future date – a range of location options are being assessed for this including the Rolls-Royce test facility in Mississippi, USA. This will build on hydrogen combustion tests already well underway in partnership with Loughborough University and German research institute DLR, with Cranfield University’s input on fuel system management.

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The programme follows market research carried out by the UK Aerospace Technology Institute’s Fly Zero team and Project NAPKIN (New Aviation Propulsion Knowledge and Innovation Network), both of which had Rolls-Royce representation, and both concluded there is market potential for hydrogen- powered aircraft. It also complements broader research into hydrogen infrastructure and transportation that Rolls-Royce is already carrying out with easyJet. Hybrid-electric and hydrogen power systems are also part of a regional aircraft research project underway with WiderØe and Embraer.

Rolls-Royce’s hybrid electric research has been carried out on our Power Generation System 1 demonstrator – made up of an AE 2100 engine with specialist controls and thermal management systems. Tests in Bristol, UK, and Trondheim, Norway, recently concluded and have now confirmed the system delivered more than 1.5 megawatts of power – the first time this has been achieved in the aviation sector.

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