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More efficient and less polluting aircraft engines

Within the OPTIMIZE European Project, DMP and IK4-TEKNIKER are exploring the latest trends in aircraft engine technology to cut fuel consumption and environmental pollution. The R&D Centre will be conducting trials using a test bench to check the efficiency of the gears that make up the reducing gearboxes incorporated into aircraft engines.

The aircraft engine sector is constantly developing and immersed in the ongoing quest for technical advances that will enable efficiency to be increased, maintenance costs to be cut and polluting gas emissions to be reduced. The aviation technology of commercial aircraft engines is converging to replace the traditional multi-shaft technologies, which use direct transmission between compressors and turbines, by indirect transmission by means of Power Transmission Gearboxes or PGBs that allow the turning speed of the ventilator/compressors and turbines to be optimised and, in some cases, for the number of shafts to be reduced. With this technological approach it is possible to significantly increase aero engine efficiency by cutting not only fuel consumption but also polluting gas emissions. In addition, more efficient and longer-lasting gearboxes cut maintenance costs. In this current technological context, the European Union has placed its trust in an entirely Basque consortium comprising the company DMP, with its headquarters in Mendaro, and the R&D centre IK4-TEKNIKER, located in Eibar. The OPTIMIZE project is seeking to find out how the manufacturing tolerances of gears affect their efficiency while functioning inside these gearboxes. Within this project, the company DMP will undertake to design, simulate and manufacture the gears, while IK4-TEKNIKER will be in charge of the test bench used to measure the variation in the efficiency of the gears under different geometric variations of these components. The head of the project at the R&D centre Beatriz Fernández explained that the tests will be conducted on a fully-sensorized test bench in order to obtain all the information through a single test, a capability that the researcher regards as "very interesting indeed" because it considerably reduces costs and trial time. “Our participation is focussing on testing the gears and using a data processing tool to analyse the results obtained in order to identify which parameters are the most critical ones and thus improve their efficiency," said the researcher. As Fernandez sees it, the main aim of the project consists of "generating the necessary knowledge" to be able to design and manufacture in the future a new reducing gearbox that is "as efficient as possible”. Efficiency will be determined in terms of load capacity, transmission errors, power losses and surface damage sustained by the gears. The expert believes that “in the field of aviation it is very important to cut fuel consumption". She pointed out that the OPTIMIZE project is following “aircraft market trends by focussing on the development of technological changes that cut the environmental impact on the future generations of the aircraft family”. The project, which was launched in October and will continue until January 2016, is expected to have a budget of 600,000€, of which 450,000€ is being provided by the European Union through its 7th Framework Programme, in particular through the Clean Sky Technology initiative, the most ambitious programme on aircraft research set up in Europe.