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Zooming into a Sustainable Future: Rolls-Royce Completes Building the UltraFan® Technology and Sends it to Testing.

Rolls-Royce UltraFan®
Rolls-Royce UltraFan® | Rolls-Royce

Testing is now underway for the Rolls-Royce UltraFan technology, which could someday allow aircraft to run on 100 percent sustainable fuel – thus transforming the aviation industry worldwide.

A significant milestone in the program was completed recently when the Rolls-Royce UltraFan technology demonstrator engine was moved from the build workshop to Derby, U.K.’s Testbed 80, where it was mounted in anticipation of testing.

The initial test is expected to take place early in 2023 and will be operated using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

Rolls Royce UltraFan technology 100 percent sustainable fuel
Testing is now underway for the Rolls-Royce UltraFan technology – innovation that could change the aircraft industry forever. | Rolls-Royce

“Seeing the UltraFan demonstrator come together and getting ready for test in Testbed 80 is a great way to end the year,” said Chris Cholerton, President of Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace.

 “We have all been waiting for this moment, which is such an important milestone for the program and for the team who have worked on it. The next stage will be to see UltraFan run for the first time on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel in 2023, proving the technology is ready to support more sustainable flight in the future.”

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The UltraFan, the largest aero-engine demonstrator in the world, features several innovations that increase fuel efficiency while reducing emissions and improving sustainability.

The technology could also be used to improve the efficiency and sustainability of current in-service engines in the near future, the company has said. 

“The UltraFan demonstrator is designed for the future – it will be ready to run on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel from day one of service. In addition, we are actively exploring potential options for hybrid-electric and hydrogen power solutions,” Rolls-Royce said in a statement.

Rolls-Royce UltraFan
Rolls-Royce confirms that they are actively exploring potential options for hybrid-electric and hydrogen power solutions. | Rolls-Royce

The fan in the UltraFan demonstration is 140 inches in diameter, and it uses 25 percent less fuel than the first generation of Trent engines, according to Rolls-Royce.

The Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 is a high-bypass turbofan engine produced by Rolls-Royce  – one of two engine options available for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. 

The UltraFan combines a brand-new engine design with technology that will make air travel more sustainable for decades, according to the British manufacturer.

In fact, UltraFan, Rolls Royce says, offers a range of sustainability options for transitioning to net zero aviation. 

There are currently various alternatives for transferring innovations from the Rolls-Royce UltraFan development program to the present Trent engines in the coming years to provide improved fuel efficiency and emissions reductions.

Rolls Royce UltraFan airframer requirements
Goal for the future: provide improved fuel efficiency and emissions reductions. | Rolls-Royce

Rolls Royce notes that it is also researching hybrid and hydrogen-fueled variants and analyzing new product applications for its engines and future airframer requirements. 

One possibility, according to the Interesting Engineering website. is a “more electric” engine.

That’s where electrical technology is increased, for instance, by directly extracting power or electrifying the fuel and oil systems, according to the website. 

Another alternative, micro-hybridization would allow for stored energy to improve engine performance throughout the flight cycle and reduce fuel use.

Rolls Royce had previously announced a research program of rig and engine tests to demonstrate that hydrogen fuel can reliably and efficiently supply power for small- to medium-sized aircraft starting in the mid-2030s.

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The program is part of Rolls-Royce’s commitment to fully understanding the “opportunities and challenges” of hydrogen power systems, the company said.

Various locations, including the Rolls-Royce test site in Mississippi, USA, are being considered for the two ground tests. 

Cranfield University in England will oversee fuel system management, thus expanding on hydrogen combustion tests that have been underway in collaboration with Loughborough University and the German research institute DLR.

high-bypass turbofan engine
Rolls-Royce continues on this innovative journey understanding the “opportunities and challenges” of hydrogen power systems. | Rolls-Royce

“We have further ambitions to move this on to a flight test phase as part of the program in the long term,” the company said in a statement.

The Rolls-Royce UltraFan demonstrator’s size and technical complexity made it necessary to move them to Testbed 80, which is considered the largest and most intelligent testbed in the world. 

According to Rolls-Royce, many hours of experimental engine testing have already been done since it was first opened in 2020.

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