Rolls-Royce has successfully tested its new UltraFan technology demonstrator, the British engine manufacturer announced on May 18, 2023.
The UltraFan development project, which was first publicly announced in 2014, is strategic for Rolls-Royce since it represents the first entirely new engine architecture in the last six decades.
The new design is also seen as key to boost the sustainability of aircraft operations. The new UltraFan engines deliver a 10% efficiency improvement over the most efficient current generation of Trent engines.
UltraFan features carbon titanium fan blades in a composite casing, as well as an innovative geared design that has been able to deliver a record 64 megawatt of power. The engine combines the Advance3 core architecture with an ALECSys lean burn combustion system.
While the ultimate goal is to power the upcoming generations of both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft, in its announcement Rolls-Royce highlighted that some elements of the UltraFan technology could potentially already be adopted by existing models in the near future.
What’s more, the tests have also shown that UltraFan can run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (which in this case was made from sustainable waste feedstock and supplied by Air bp).
Tufan Erginbilgic, CEO of Rolls-Royce, referred to the success of the tests that took place at a dedicated test facility called Testbed80 in Derby, England, as 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,” Erginbilgic said. “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.”
The UltraFan program has counted also on significant public support through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which is a British public organization dedicated to promoting technological innovation and sustainability in the aviation industry, as well as Innovate UK, the EU’s Clean Sky programme and the State of Brandenburg in Germany (where Rolls-Royce has also an industrial site).