Rolls-Royce has inched a step closer to putting its upcoming UltraFan into production, having successfully run the world's most powerful aerospace gearbox for the first time. The tests were conducted at the company's facilities in Dahlewitz, Germany, and mark a significant step towards more powerful, efficient engines for passenger jets.
The Power Gearbox is a crucial part in the UltraFan engine, allowing it to work efficiently across a wide range of takeoff thrusts. Initial tests don't get anywhere near takeoff thrust, though. Instead, the gearbox was strapped to the Rolls-Royce Attitude Rig, which lets engineers simulate the effects of climbing, descending and banking.
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Having tested the oil system's functionality at low pressure, the next step for Rolls-Royce is to run its gearbox through an increasingly intense set of scenarios, before it faces full-power testing next year.
The gearbox will connect the turbine at the back of the engine with the fans at the front. Although fitting bigger fans to aircraft engines is one way to generate more power, bigger fans need to be driven by bigger turbines, and there comes a point where the size of the turbines becomes prohibitive. UltraFan is designed to avoid this problem, using a gearbox to keep the turbine and fans spinning at optimum speeds during all stages of a flight to yield more power and efficiency.
"This is another significant step in bringing our future technology to life," says Mike Whitehead, Rolls-Royce chief engineer and head of the UltraFan Technologies Program. "We launched the UltraFan design in 2014 and now we are putting our new infrastructure to work to turn it into reality."
When it launches in 2025, Rolls-Royce says the TurboFan will be 25 percent more efficient than current-generation Trent engines.