Rolls-Royce Tests UltraFan, Its first New Engine Architecture in 54 Years

Aerospace company’s new engine offers a 10 percent efficiency boost that will help current and future designs.

The UltraFan is Rolls-Royce’s first new engine architecture in 54 years. [Courtesy: Rolls-Royce]

Rolls-Royce has announced the completion of the first tests of its UltraFan technology demonstrator at its facility in Derby, United Kingdom. The tests were run using 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF.

The aero engine company said this is the first time in 54 years it has tested a brand new engine design, noting the latest architecture’s performance is “a big step” toward improving the efficiency of future engines as well as those currently in production.

The UltraFan is 10 percent more efficient than today’s Rolls-Royce Trent XWB, which  the company called “the world’s most efficient large aero engine in service.” It is possible to use technology from the UltraFan to improve the current Trent model’s efficiency and reliability, according to the company. In the long term, the new design is sufficiently scalable to power new airliners expected to enter the market during the 2030s. 

“The UltraFan demonstrator is a game-changer—the technologies we are testing as part of this program 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,” said Tufan Erginbilgic, CEO of Rolls-Royce. “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.”

The company said the UltraFan program demonstrates what government and industry can achieve by working together. The latest tests benefitted from the support of the U.K. government through entities including the Aerospace Technology Institute, Innovate UK, and the European Union’s Clean Sky programs.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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