Dr Christopher Long, Director of the Thermo-fluid Mechanics Research Centre
Aviation firm funds $1.6m Sussex projects to improve aircraft engines
One of the world’s largest aviation technology companies is funding research at Sussex worth $1.6 million (just over £1 million) to make aircraft engines safer and more efficient.
GE Aviation, based in Ohio, USA, will work with engineering experts in Sussex’s Thermo-Fluid Mechanics Research Centre (TFMRC) on two projects to help commercial airlines use less fuel, reduce engine emissions and save on the costs of development.
The projects, starting this month, are expected to last for two years.
They will make use of the TFMRC’s state-of-the-art facilities, including its Rolls-Royce DART air compressor, which can achieve conditions that are representative of those in an aircraft engine during flight. It is the most powerful facility of its kind in any UK university.
The research requires the substantial modification of two existing test rigs.
One of these will be used to investigate the heat transfer processes that occur inside the high-pressure compressor of an aircraft engine. This is of particular importance because the heat transfer affects thermal expansion and this affects the clearance between the tips of the compressor blades and the casing; too much clearance is inefficient, too little results in wear and failure.
The other test rig will be used to examine a destructive phenomenon known as ‘ingress’, which occurs when hot mainstream gas enters the cavity between a rotating turbine disc and a stationary casing. The hot gas can cause materials to fail with catastrophic consequences. Ingress can be prevented by supplying a flow of sealing or purge air to this cavity. The aim of this research is to determine how much purge air is required at various conditions.
Lead researcher Dr Christopher Long, Director of TFMRC, and his colleague Dr Vasudevan Kanjirakkad marked the start of this research project with a visit by engineers from GE Aviation at the beginning of March. The occasion marked a return to familiar surroundings for GE Aviation’s Chief Consulting Engineer Bob Proctor; he was a DPhil student alongside Dr Long in TFMRC in the early 1980s.
The TFMRC was established in 1977 with funding from what was then the Science Research Council. In the following 35 years, the research carried out there has almost exclusively focused on both experimentation and modelling of the so-called internal air system of gas turbine engines.
Posted on behalf of: Engineering and Design
Last updated: Wednesday, 3 April 2013