Due to technological advancements in the aerospace industry, air transportation has become the primary means of travelling. This begs the question of “what are the key factors that could push the industry to the next level and allow for higher performance, low cost and low carbon emission flights?”
For a low carbon aviation to be achieved, a lot of effort is currently put on the aircraft-propulsion integration. Low-pressure-ratio fans are one of the concepts that is being studied in this regard. The lower the pressure across the propulsive element the more the exhaust velocities will decrease and therefore the higher the propulsive efficiency will be. However, a constant level of thrust would require an increase of the fan area, which could lead to an increase of the total weight of the configuration and ultimately cancel the efficiency benefits of the concept.
Other projects are focused on the development of small cores engines while maintaining or improving the efficiency of engines with bigger cores. The enhancement of turbomachinery aerodynamic performance, tip clearance control, secondary flow losses, etc. play the most significant role for this task. However, the challenge for single-aisle aircraft is to maintain and improve efficiencies of the overall engine and engine–aircraft integration.
Boundary layer ingestion is another popular concept that allows the reduction of the velocity defect in the aircraft wake and as a result it leads to savings in cruise energy consumption. At the propulsion development side, fans are designed to operate in highly distorted flow fields. For that reason an assessment of the penalties which come from current technology compared to future concepts is essential.
Turbo-electric propulsion systems consist one more trend of the recent advancements. In such systems, fans or propellers are driven by electric motors powered by electrical generators which are respectively driven by gas turbines. These systems can be partial, hybrid, or all-electric based on the dependency of batteries for part of or the whole flight. Thermal management is a very important factor because it may affect not only the performance of the electric propulsion system, but the aircraft flight performance too. As a result, configurations with higher structural and aerodynamic efficiency can help address these challenges. However, for this concept to be applied in large commercial aircraft, the state-of-the-art electrical technologies for motors, generators, power distribution, and power electronics will need to advance further.
It is well understood that there is still a lot of space to push the boundaries of propulsion and both industry and academia are working on that end. SoftInWay can be a strong partner for everyone who needs to develop a new concept when it comes to turbomachinery. With many years experience in the aerospace industry and the help of our AxSTREAM platform, we can ensure optimized propulsion systems for different scopes.
Farnborough International Airshow is an event that allows people all around the world to experience recent technological achievements and have a look at the future too. Our very own Dr. Vasileios Pastrikakis will be there and he will be glad to meet with you for any questions. For more info you can reach out to: firstname.lastname@example.org / +41 787 474 440 / +44 784 059 1939.
Commercial Aircraft Propulsion and Energy Systems Research, Reducing Global Carbon Emissions (2016), DOI: https://doi.org/10.17226/23490