Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Rolls-Royce Achieves Milestone with Innovative Hybrid-Electric Turbine

By Staff Correspondent

In a breakthrough indicative of the rapid advances within the aero propulsion sector, Rolls-Royce has successfully concluded the initial fuel burn test for its innovatively developed small gas turbine, created to power hybrid-electric flights. This novel turbine, employing cutting-edge combustion technology, promises ultra-low emissions, marking a pivotal moment in clean aviation technology.

The small gas turbine is part of a lightweight turbogenerator system, specially devised for the burgeoning Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) market. This market comprises electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) and electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) aircraft, pertinent for Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and commuter aircraft, encompassing up to 19 seats. Besides the aforementioned applications, potential exists within helicopter, auxiliary power unit (APU), and defence markets.

Accelerated Development Timeline

Matheu Parr, Customer Director, Electrical at Rolls-Royce, extolled the rapid development of the turbine from conceptualisation to testing, accomplished in under two years, as a “significant leap forward”. He further commented on the substantial potential of the turbogenerator system, stating, “This will enable our customers to extend the routes that electric flight can support, meaning more passengers will benefit from potentially net zero emissions travel.”

This new addition to Rolls-Royce’s electric propulsion portfolio will deliver an on-board power source scalable between 500 kW and 1,200 kW, thereby facilitating longer-range flights on sustainable aviation fuels and eventually, through hydrogen combustion, once available.

Integration & Application

The development synergises Rolls-Royce’s proficiency in fabricating compact, high-speed rotating electric machines and efficient gas turbines, leveraging integrated expertise at system and platform levels. It underscores the company’s pursuit of pioneering solutions in the Advanced Air Mobility market aimed at achieving net-zero emissions.

The technology will support serial or parallel hybrid applications, adeptly recharging batteries and directly supplying energy to electric propulsion units, allowing aircraft to alternate between power sources mid-flight.

Advancements In Clean Energy Aviation

The developments by Rolls-Royce represent a seminal advancement in the transition to green aviation technology, facilitating design adaptations and real-world data accrual to validate technical attributes, pushing towards the realisation of a certified engine optimised for this innovative market segment. This R&D initiative is partially subsidised by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, highlighting the global commitment to sustainable innovations in aviation.

Rolls-Royce continues its trajectory towards developing holistic power and propulsion systems for all-electric and hybrid-electric applications, manifesting the latest advancements from power generation, energy storage, power electronics, control systems, to electric motors.

Rolls-Royce’s innovative gas turbine is not just a technological advancement but also a harbinger of the sustainable future of aviation, setting the stage for the broader application of hybrid-electric flight in various aviation sectors.

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