German aerospace researchers are showing off a high-efficiency powerplant concept which combines geared-fan architecture with a piston-engine core.
While unlikely to enter service before 2050, the concept – described as a composite cycle engine – is potentially capable of halving fuel-burn compared with turbofans from 2000.
The low-pressure section takes advantage of geared-fan technology which ensures that the rotating sections spin at individual optimal speeds.
It has a 16-blade fan with a diameter of 2.87m compared with 2.06m for the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G on the Airbus A320neo.
But the high-pressure shaft is driven by a piston-engine assembly, with two banks and a total of 20 pistons arranged in a V-formation around the centreline of the powerplant.
The piston engine, through the high-pressure spool, powers the axial high-pressure compressor – there is no high-pressure turbine.
Munich-based research institute Bauhaus Luftfahrt, which is presenting the concept at the ILA Berlin air show, says the 5.88m engine length amounts to "only slight enlargement" – some 0.54m – compared with the current geared turbofan.
"The piston engines increase thermal efficiency by using non-stationary isochoric-isobaric combustion," it says.
"[This] enables higher peak pressures and temperatures within the core engine."
The engine would provide thrust of 11,200lb (49.7kN), typical of power levels for current regional jets in the 50-seat sector.
Bauhaus Luftfahrt says the design enables the engine to capitalise on "outstanding" power-to-weight ratio of low-pressure turbines while achieving an "ultra-high" bypass ratio of 33.7.