Rolls-Royce works with EADS on advanced hybrid distributed propulsion concept for future airliners

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Rolls-Royce and EADS are showing a new power concept for advanced future airliners at the Paris Air Show this week, which could help reduce CO2 emissions, make less noise and dramatically reduce fuel burn by the middle of the century.

Such an airliner would be powered by a serial hybrid propulsion system, which is similar in concept to the technology found in a growing number of energy efficient motor cars. Propulsion is provided by six electrically-driven fans distributed along the wing span in clusters of three.

A single, large advanced gas turbine generates electrical power which is stored in an advanced energy storage system that could be based on Lithium-air energy storage technology. During climb the distributed fans draw power from the energy storage system, but during descent, they act like wind turbines to generate electrical energy which re-charges the batteries.

For the megaWatt range power levels that an electrical distributed propulsion network requires, a new high-power superconducting electrical system will have to be designed and validated based on cryogenic cooling at temperatures as low as -252ºC.

A major benefit of the distributed propulsion system is that it can be integrated into the airframe's structure to maximise aerodynamic efficiency and optimise the airflow around it. This reduces the aircraft's weight, drag and the amount of noise it makes.

Ric Parker, Director for Research & Technology at Rolls-Royce, said: "The conceptual airliner with the E-Thrust distributed propulsion architecture demonstrates the sort of futuristic thinking backed by solid research and emerging technologies that will lead to a real step-change in airliner design.  This in turn would result in a significant reduction in the environmental impact of aviation."

A model of the E-Thrust concept aircraft and its innovative power system can be seen within the EADS Innovations Works exhibit (EADS Pavilion, Chalet row A) at the Paris Air Show. The E-Thrust concept is part of the on-going Distributed Electrical Aerospace Propulsion (DEAP) project which is co-funded by the UK's Technology Strategy Board and, in addition to Rolls-Royce and EADS Innovation Works, involves the Universities of Cranfield and Cambridge.

  1. Rolls-Royce is a world-leading provider of power systems and services for use on land, at sea and in the air, and has established a strong position in global markets - civil aerospace, defence aerospace, marine and energy.
  2. As a result of this strategy, Rolls-Royce has a broad customer base comprising more than 300 airlines, 4,000 corporate and utility aircraft and helicopter operators, 160 armed forces, more than 4,000 marine customers, including 70 navies, and energy customers in more than 80 countries.
  3. Annual underlying revenue was £12.2 billion in 2012, of which more than half came from the provision of services. The firm and announced order book stood at £60.1 billion at 31 December 2012, providing visibility of future levels of activity.
  4. Rolls-Royce employs over 45,000 people in offices, manufacturing and service facilities in over 50 countries. Over 14,000 of these employees are engineers.
  5. In 2012, Rolls-Royce invested £919 million on research and development, two thirds of which had the objective of further improving the environmental performance of its products, in particular reducing emissions.
  6. Rolls-Royce supports a global network of 28 University Technology Centres, which connect the company's engineers with the forefront of scientific research.
  7. The Group has a strong commitment to apprentice and graduate recruitment and to further developing employee skills.
  8. EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2012, the Group - comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter - generated revenues of € 56.5 billion and employed a workforce of over 140,000.
  9. EADS Innovation Works is a global network of trans-national Technical Capability Centres that have the mission to identify new value-creating technologies and to develop technological skills and resources. The organisation also operates EADS's corporate research and technology laboratories that promote the group's technical innovation potential with a focus on the long-term.
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