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3 minute read - 19th May 2023

Rolls-Royce completes successful first UltraFan tests

Rolls-Royce has successfully completed the first tests of its UltraFan technology demonstrator at its facility in Derby. The first tests were conducted using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Notably, it is the first time in 54 years the aero-engine manufacturer has tested a brand new engine architecture.

Confirming the capability of the suite of technologies incorporated in the demonstrator is a big step towards improving the efficiency of current and future aero-engines. UltraFan delivers a 10% efficiency improvement over the Trent XWB, which is already the world’s most efficient large aero-engine in service.

In the nearer term, there are options to transfer technologies from the UltraFan development programme to current Trent engines, providing its customers with even greater availability, reliability and efficiency. In the longer term, UltraFan’s scalable technology from ~25,000-110,000lb thrust offers the potential to power new narrowbody and widebody aircraft anticipated in the 2030s.

Rolls-Royce has successfully completed the first tests of its UltraFan technology demonstrator at its facility in Derby / Picture: Rolls-Royce

The tests took place in the world’s largest and smartest indoor aero-engine testing facility – Testbed 80. The 100% SAF, derived primarily from waste-based sustainable feedstocks such as used cooking oils, was provided by Air bp. Testing the demonstrator is the culmination of many years work, which has been supported by the UK government through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Innovate UK, the EU’s Clean Sky programmes, plus Germany’s federal aviation research programme LuFo and the State of Brandenburg.

UltraFan has been a decade in the making, with the concept unveiled publicly in 2014. It is a fundamentally different design architecture to that within the approximately 4,200 Rolls-Royce Civil large engines currently in service, as it incorporates a geared design that no other industry player has produced at this size before.

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Tufan Erginbilgic, CEO of Rolls-Royce plc, said: “The UltraFan demonstrator is 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. That is why this announcement is so important – 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. Today, we are closer to achieving this ambition. Collaboration is key in driving the decarbonisation of air travel and the UltraFan programme is a great example of what can be achieved when government and industry come together with a common purpose.”

Kemi Badenoch, UK business and trade secretary, added: “This cutting-edge technology will help the transition towards a greener future for aviation while attracting further investment into the UK’s aerospace industry, helping grow the economy. I’m proud that the government has backed this initiative through our Aerospace Technology Institute programme, and we will continue to work with manufacturers like Rolls-Royce as we seek to grow the UK’s share of the global aerospace market.”

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