Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre in Heat Transfer and Aerodynamics

Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre in Heat Transfer and Aerodynamics

Designing high performance jet engines in partnership within state-of-the-art facilities brings about benefits for Rolls-Royce and a new generation of aerothermal experts.

This case study originally appeared on page 44 of the State of the Relationship 2014. The report outlines the state of university-business collaboration in the UK, featuring expert views and over forty case studies. Read the full report.

Business Challenge

The UK Aerospace Sector is a successful, high value, high technology manufacturing industry that is second in size only to the USA. It generates over £20bn per annum in value added revenue and employs over 100,000 directly, and over 220,000 indirectly. The aerospace industry is one of the UK’s largest exporters, adding around £2.8bn annually to the UK trade balance. The industry is also one of the major industrial supporters of research within the UK. The conditions in the jet engine core, specifically the pressures and temperatures, present immense technical challenges to engine designers. These conditions are the context for designers who need to ensure optimum performance of the engine components. Optimum component performance is critical to the successful business case for new jet engines for commercial use. The challenge for Rolls- Royce is to remain globally competitive – especially in the technology used in aeroengines.

How Did the University of Oxford Help?

The UTC at Oxford has researched the highly complex flows inside the gas turbine for many years and has provided key insight into the flow physics of the engine. This research involves the construction of highly complex wind tunnels, turbine test facilities and instrumentation. The UTC is based at the Osney Thermofluids Laboratory which houses a world class set of experimental facilities. Recent investment in the building and its infrastructure exceeds £10m and has led to the establishment of one of the most impressive aircraft propulsion systems laboratories in the world. The total value of grants to the research group now exceeds £16m with the number of students and staff exceeding 50. The research capability at Oxford includes world class expertise in the numerical methods used to predict how gas flows behave.

Real Business Results

The UTC has provided research that has had a direct effect on the fuel burn of the Boeing 787 and other aircraft. Research outcomes formed the basis of two REF 2014 Impact Case Studies with very significant savings of aircraft CO2 emissions. The UTC has provided highly trained aerothermal engineers for gas turbine companies (including Rolls- Royce) for many years. This benefit to Rolls-Royce was recently formalised by the introduction of a Centre for Doctoral Training (jointly with Cambridge and Loughborough) in Gas Turbine Aerodynamics.

What our Client Says

Rolls-Royce is very proud of its relationship with Oxford which spans over 4 decades. Rolls-Royce was delighted when, with considerable support from the University in 2010, the UTC was relocated to the world class facilities in the Southwell Building. The work in the UTC has supported our turbine technology throughout this time. Developing and maintaining a critical mass in aerothermal research and training PhD students with the requisite skills remains a high priority for the Company. Rolls-Royce is pleased to note that the national importance of UK leadership in aerospace has been further evidenced by recent Government announcements such as the UK Aerodynamics Centre and the Aerospace Technologies Institute. We expect the UTC in Heat Transfer and Aerodynamics to play a key role in these new Government/Industry initiatives.

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