A new small gas turbine that has been specifically developed by Rolls-Royce to power hybrid-electric flight has successfully completed its first fuel burn.
The turbine has been engineered using novel combustion technology to produce ultra-low emissions. The turbogenerator can be used in serial or parallel hybrid applications, said its makers. It is also well suited to recharging batteries or providing energy to electrical propulsion units, enabling aircraft to switch between power sources in flight.
Matheu Parr, customer director, Rolls-Royce Electrical, said: “Rolls-Royce is developing all-electric and hybrid-electric power and propulsion systems for the Advanced Air Mobility market. The first fuel burn of our brand-new small gas turbine is a significant leap forward with successful stages throughout the test from light-up to the pull-away of the system.
The turbogenerator system will act as an on-board power source with scalable power offerings between 500kW and 1,200kW enabling extended range on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and as it becomes available through hydrogen, said the OEM.
“This significant achievement follows the fast-paced development time of the new gas turbine from concept freeze to ‘pass to test’ in under 2 years,” said Parr. “The turbogenerator system will enable our customers to extend the routes that electric flight can support and means more passengers will be able to travel further on low and potentially net zero emissions aircraft.”
Test facilities and equipment, comprising 14 subsystems in total, were designed and built or adapted by in just under a year, said Rolls-Royce. The first tests helped to generate real data to verify the key technical attributes of the design. Which allowed for design adaptations for the next set of testing and push forward on an overall goal of a certified engine for a new market segment.
Parr added: “With this achievement we have proven we can apply our expertise to novel designs and are able to test them on a very quick timescale. This capability will help Rolls-Royce to deliver the products that will help us on our path to net zero within the ambitious industry timelines of the Advanced Air Mobility market.”
The research and development of this technology is being partially funded by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.