Rolls-Royce makes sustainable air travel breakthrough at Derby testbed

Rolls-Royce has made a significant breakthrough in the drive towards sustainable air travel after successfully running its UltraFan® technology demonstrator to maximum power at its facility in Derby.

The initial stage of the test was conducted using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

The UltraFan demonstrator was successfully tested for the first time earlier this year. Since then, the UltraFan team at Rolls has been gradually increasing the power as part of the testing regime. The team said the demonstrator has “performed in line with our expectations,” adding: “The results of the test will provide us with valuable learning and data, which our teams will now take away and continue to analyse.”

UltraFan delivers a 10% efficiency improvement over Rolls’ Trent XWB, which is already the world’s most efficient large aero-engine in service. In total that’s a 25% efficiency gain since the launch of the first Trent engine.

Rolls says that as part of the UltraFan development programme it has identified a number of technologies that are potentially transferable to its current Trent engines.

Tufan Erginbilgic, CEO, Rolls-Royce, said: “Hitting full power with our UltraFan demonstrator sends a strong message that Rolls-Royce is at the cutting-edge of innovation and technology, leading the way in the transition to more efficient and sustainable aviation. This fantastic milestone puts us in a strong position to support the plans of our customers as they develop the next generation of super-efficient aircraft.”

Simon Burr, group director of engineering, technology and safety, Rolls-Royce, added: “We estimate that to reach Net Zero flying by 2050, a combination of highly-efficient, latest-generation gas turbines such as UltraFan operating on 100% SAF are likely to contribute around 80% of the total solution, which is why today’s announcement is such an important milestone for Rolls-Royce and the wider industry.”

The UltraFan demonstrator run to full power took place in the world’s largest indoor aero-engine testing facility – Testbed 80, in Derby.

UltraFan has been a decade in the making, with the concept unveiled publicly in 2014. It is a fundamentally different design architecture to that within the approximately 4,200 Rolls-Royce Civil large engines currently in service, as it incorporates a geared design that no other industry player has produced at this size before.