The UltraFan demonstrator engine (Photo: Rolls-Royce)
Rolls-Royce has wrapped up construction on their innovative UltraFan® engine. The UltraFan runs on 100% sustainable aviation fuel and includes technology that enhances fuel efficiency. This milestone is not only celebrated by the Rolls-Royce team but by the larger aviation community since it’s a much-needed step toward net neutral aviation.
Like many companies, Rolls-Royce is wrapping up their 2022 work year. Their civil aerospace department’s wrap-up project was the UltraFan engine. The team finished its construction earlier in December.
The UltraFan is designed to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel. It also includes scalable technology which could work in both narrow-body and wide-body aircrafts. The new design is unlike any other engine on the market, and it possesses more eco-friendly technologies. The design and new technologies provide a 25,000- to 110,000-pound thrust that can improve fuel efficiency by an additional 10%.
Unlike the first generation of the Trent engine, the UltraFan will have a 140-inch diameter, resulting in a 25% increase in fuel efficiency—even if normal fuel is used instead of 100% sustainable fuel.
The UltraFan engine isn't quite ready to launch just yet, but it can help other aircraft on the path to net zero aviation. In the near future, technologies from this engine could be transferred to others to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency.
But before the full power of the UltraFan can be realized, Rolls-Royce must do testing on the engine. The team has moved the engine from the workshop to Testbed 80 in Derby, UK, and expects to carry out the first test early next year.
Testbed 80, the largest smart testbed in the world, was custom-built for this project in 2020. While customized to accommodate the size of the UltraFan demonstrator, Testbed 80 has tested other engines over the past few years.
If testing is successful, UltraFan could be a key factor on the path to net zero aviation. Backed by the state of Bradenburg in Germany, the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute, Innovate UK, and the EU’s Clean Sky program, this engine has the potential to transform aviation.
“The next stage will be to see UltraFan run for the first time on 100% sustainable aviation fuel in 2023, proving the technology is ready to support more sustainable flight in the future,” said Chris Cholerton, President of Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace, in a recent press release.
This project is a monumental way to end the year. It’s a step toward a future where flights have lower emissions and are more fuel efficient.