Helping to make the world’s most efficient civil turbofan

Rolls-Royce jet engines are being used on the Airbus A350, which had its first flight on Friday, 14th June in Toulouse. Rolls-Royce has collaborated with the Osney Thermo-Fluids Laboratory, part of the Engineering Science Department at Oxford University, in the development of technology used in the Trent XWB engine. Research performed in the University Technology Centre (UTC) in Heat Transfer in Aerodynamics and Heat Transfer and the UTC in Solid Mechanics have helped make the Trent XWB the world's most efficient civil turbofan.

The Department’s Osney Thermo-Fluids Laboratory houses some of the most sophisticated turbine and high speed flow facilities in the UK, and the research group includes internationally recognised experts in CFD, flow and heat transfer experiments and instrumentation.

Trent XWB engine
The Oxford Turbine Research Facility
Airbus A350
The Trent XWB fixed to the wing of an Airbus A380

According to a recent article in The Sunday Times, ‘ministers have long seen the Rolls-Royce model as a template for harnessing world-class talent in British universities to boost growth. Successive governments have pumped billions into aerospace research over the past few decades - and the Trent XWB engine is just one beneficiary’.

‘The fan blades, which on take-off have to withstand a force equivalent to a 1,000-ton freight train hanging off each one, contain the work of six universities’. Oxford and Imperial College London researched the impact of bird strikes, Cambridge worked on the aerodynamics, Southampton on low-noise technology, while Birmingham and Nottingham conducted advanced research into the titanium materials.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced £2bn of funding for the aerospace industry in his March budget, to be invested in a new technology institute to aid research into the next generation of aircraft. Ric Parker, Director of Research and technology at Rolls-Royce, said: “This new-found faith in advanced manufacturing and the belief that it is an instrument for economic growth is positive”.

For the next 10 years the focus will be on a new generation of composite materials now being developed in universities that will make the company’s engines lighter and more efficient.


Acknowledgement: Article in The Sunday Times, 16.06.2013: “Your starter for 10: design an engine to make us proud”.