Rolls-Royce has successfully completed the first tests of its new UltraFan technology demonstrator at its Derby, UK site, with the engine running on 100% sustainable aviation fuel.
However, Rolls-Royce did not immediately disclose when the trials took place, their duration, or what power level the engine reached.
“The UltraFan demonstrator is a game changer – the technologies we are testing as part of this programme have the capability to improve the engines of today as well as the engines of tomorrow,” says Tufan Erginbilgic, Rolls-Royce chief executive.
Incorporating a suite of new technologies – including carbon-titanium fan blades, Advance3 core, a new combustor, and the crucial high-power gearbox – the UltraFan should deliver a 10% fuel-burn improvement over manufacturer’s newest engine, the Trent XWB, or 25% over earlier Trent models.
Rolls-Royce is eyeing the potential use of the technologies matured through the UltraFan programme on its current Trent family of widebody engines, helping to enhance their efficiency and reliability.
In the longer term, the propulsion specialist sees the “scalable” architecture – covering the 25,000-100,000lb (111-444kN)-thrust range – as suitable for future single- or twin-aisle applications likely to emerge in the 2030s.
Evaluations of the demonstrator were conducted at the firm’s new Testbed 80 facility in Derby and powered by SAF derived from waste-based feedstocks and supplied by Air BP.
The test engine has a 140in (355cm)-diameter fan, features a 14:1 bypass ratio and is sized to produce 80,000lb of thrust.
Funding for the UltraFan’s development has been provided by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Innovate UK, the EU’s Clean Sky programmes plus Germany’s LuFo federal aviation research programme and the State of Brandenburg.
Gary Elliott, ATI chief executive, says the UltraFan “puts the UK at the forefront of the global market, and is absolutely critical for the future of the UK aircraft engine industry.”
Rolls-Royce will further mature the new architecture through a project backed by the EU’s Clean Aviation body and led by the manufacturer’s German unit.
That effort – known as HEAVEN – will see the engine “significantly evolve” into “UltraFan H2” which will be capable of running on hydrogen or SAF and use hybrid-electric technology to “reduce wasted energy”, according to Clean Aviation’s project description.
“Numerous innovative enabling technologies already at [technology readiness level] 3 will be incorporated into this new architecture to improve the gas turbine efficiency,” it adds.
By the end of the project, in December 2026, the UltraFan H2 design should be at readiness level 6, supporting potential service entry around 2035.