Rolls-Royce supplies approximately 50% of new aero-engines to the global aviation industry, acting as one of three major international manufacturers of civil aero-engines with an order book exceeding £15bn. Over the last decade annual flights worldwide have risen significantly, however so has the need to reduce the CO2 emissions generated by the aerospace industry. Reduction of carbon emissions from gas turbine engines is mainly achieved through reduction in weight or increases in operating temperature that increase thermal efficiency. Rolls-Royce were faced with the challenge of developing safe and effective materials for these arduous operating conditions. Swansea University is a University Technology Partner (UTP) within the framework of Rolls-Royce University Technology Centres (UTC) and with our long-established expertise in this field worked together with Rolls-Royce to find solutions to these complex challenges.
Swansea’s research in cold dwell sensitivity [R1] advanced lifting, fatigue behaviour of novel titanium alloys [R2], creep [R3], thermo-mechanical fatigue crack growth [R4], nickel superalloys [R5] and investigations into solid-state welding processes for bladed disks [R6 - see reference in publications section] have delivered significant commercial and economic impact. With improved understanding of mechanical behaviour, deformation and failure mechanisms, Swansea researchers have defined safe operational envelopes for various titanium and nickel alloys utilised in fan, compressor and turbine applications in the current generation of Rolls-Royce Trent engines.
The research has provided a critical technological contribution to the manufacture of efficient and robust gas turbine engines, fundamentally supporting the declaration of safe working lives for critical rotating components. The impact of Swansea’s research has resulted in Rolls-Royce achieving significant cost avoidance exceeding £3.5bn through the reduction of component costs and safe life extension of critical rotating components. Research performed by our team at Swansea University, as part of a larger collaborative effort, contributed to a 1% reduction in specific fuel consumption of Rolls-Royce engines, leading to significant reduction in aerospace CO2 emissions and enabling Rolls-Royce to maintain a minimum 50% share in the global civil aviation market.