Improving the performance of Rolls-Royce aero-engines

Improving the performance of Rolls-Royce aero-engines


Case study by Cranfield University


Cranfield University is the UK’s most business-engaged university. Through close collaboration with more than 750 businesses and governments around the world, Cranfield makes a practical and distinctive contribution to society by creating and transforming knowledge to solve real-world problems; providing substantial savings, increasing efficiency and improving quality of life.

Cranfield has been working with strategic partner Rolls-Royce for 37 years. Significant research has been investigating turbine blade coatings. Cranfield is home to one of Rolls-Royce’s 19 International University Technology Centres (UTCs) – the Performance Engineering UTC, and is a member of Rolls-Royce’s University Technology Partnership (UTP) researching materials development within Rolls-Royce. In this partnership Cranfield is the lead in advanced coating development. This strategic partnership has led to more than 100 Cranfield graduate engineers being recruited by Rolls-Royce and many collaborative projects, one of which is detailed below.

Together with Rolls-Royce, Cranfield has developed new low thermal conductivity barrier coatings that have reduced fuel consumption by over 1%. The work focused on developing advanced coatings for gas turbine engines which reduce the metal surface temperature, and extend the life of the turbne; allowing the turbine to operate at higher power more efficiently.

Cranfield produced a series of new multi-layered coatings for turbine blades for test engines forRolls-Royce. Prototype parts were coated at Cranfield and run in development engines. This technology allowed Rolls-Royce to increase its market share for large civil aircraft engines and the technology is now used in Rolls-Royce engines powering the Airbus A380 aircraft as part of the next generation of Trent engines. The new coatings are predicted to save the engine operators £3.4 billion over the engine lifetime.

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