Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation have won NASA contracts to develop technologies aimed at increasing the thermal efficiency of future commercial turbofan engine cores.

The contracts fall under NASA’s Hybrid Thermally Efficient Core project – an effort to develop a “high-power-density” turbofan core that is 5-10% more fuel efficient than current technology.

CFM RISE Compact Core 1

Source: GE Aviation

A depiction of a “compact core” being developed under CFM International’s RISE programme

Launched in 2020 with $191 million in planned funding, NASA’s HYTEC programme is working to mature the technologies in time for an early 2030s service entry on a next-generation airliner.

P&W will “develop advanced high-pressure turbine technologies that will reduce fuel consumption and emissions for next-generation single-aisle aircraft”, the Hartford engine maker says on 25 October of its HYTEC work.

More specifically, P&W’s effort will focus on development of carbon matrix composites (CMCs) that are “capable of operating at higher temperatures than current CMCs”. The company will also develop “environmental barrier coatings and advanced cooling and aerodynamic approaches that will enable new component designs and efficiencies”, says P&W, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies.

“By increasing the thermal efficiency of the high-pressure turbine, these technologies will contribute to greater fuel efficiency in future gas-turbine propulsion systems,” it adds.

The company will perform the work at its newly opened CMC “centre of excellence” in Carlsbad, California. Raytheon Technologies Research Center in Connecticut will also contribute.

P&W does not disclose the dollar value of the work, but government documents note that Raytheon won HYTEC contracts valued at $6.6 million, including options.

GE also confirms it won HYTEC contracts. The Ohio engine maker is “testing and maturing compact jet engine core designs to improve thermal efficiency – this includes continued development of ceramic matrix composite, which is an advanced heat resistant material”.

GE’s work aligns with a broader technology development programme called RISE being led by CFM International, which GE and Safran Aircraft Engines co-own.

Through RISE, CFM is developing an open-fan engine (also called a “propfan”) and working on means of boosting thermal efficiency.

The US government values GE’s HYTEC contracts at $12.2 million.