Aerospace manufacturers have a strong track record of continuously improving their products. In 2014, Rolls-Royce, for example, invested nearly $2 billion in research and development, around two-thirds of it in improving environmental performance including lowering emissions and noise.
The fuel efficiency of the Rolls-Royce “Trent” engine family has improved by about 1% per year. This culminates in the Trent XWB, the sixth generation of the 3-shaft Trent family, which is over 15% more fuel efficient than the first Trent engine. It is the engine maker’s most efficient – and lowest carbon emission – jet engine flying today.
Work on the engine started in 2005 when Rolls-Royce sat down with Airbus to look at how it could improve the performance of the A350 aircraft they were designing.
While design for low fuel-burn and CO2 emissions is essential, a wider view has also been at the heart of all design activity, to deliver the right balance between fuel burn and life cycle costs, and ensuring high reliability and durability in all conditions.
Compressor blisk (a disk with incorporated fan blades) technology has enabled compression module weight savings of 15% as well as aerodynamic efficiency improvements, while an optimised internal air system reduces cooling and sealing air demand, which also reduces fuel burn. The engine has even higher operating temperatures to improve efficiency and reduce fuel burn, while the latest generation material technologies enable this improvement to be achieved without degrading reliability.
The swept hollow titanium fan blades have exceptional levels of aerodynamic performance and low noise, while being extremely light and strong enough to withstand multiple bird strikes.