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Jet engine design tools

Modifying jet engines for enhanced efficiency and decreased emissions typically requires numerous experiments on expensive test rigs. European scientists developed predictive modelling tools to expedite the process.
Jet engine design tools
Air travel is on the rise and predicted to continue increasing long into the foreseeable future. Aircraft jet engines responsible for the thrust that keeps the planes in the sky are also responsible for a significant amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as well as generating harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx).

In order to reduce emissions and minimise the environmental impact of ever-increasing air travel, new combustion systems are required. Combustion is the process of burning the fuel. Air is sucked into the jet engine and compressed. Fuel is sprayed into the air and a spark ignites the mixture. The burning gases expand and are forced out the back of the engine creating the thrust that pushes the plane forward.

Although it sounds relatively simple, complex chemistry and thermodynamics are at work. In order to create maximum boost with minimal emissions, engineers and scientists must design the engine to create the right mixture of gases with the right timing of ignition and exhaust. Without the use of predictive models, scientists would be forced to execute many rig tests to develop and optimise advanced combustion engines of the future.

European researchers have developed the necessary design tools with EU funding of the ‘Toward innovative methods for combustion prediction in aero-engines’ (Timecop-AE) project. Researchers adapted a very successful approach for simulating turbulent flows of gaseous fuels (large eddy simulation, LES) to the combustion process in both conventional and so-called lean-burn combustion engines.

The latter use less fuel and generate fewer greenhouse gases but increased NOx emissions. While they are certain to play a pivotal role in future designs, important issues such as compromised combustor operation require modification.

Timecop-AE predictive tools now enable designers to model the combustion process and, in particular, transient and unsteady phenomena without the need for numerous test-rig experiments.

Enhancing the efficiency of future engines while reducing the cost and lead-time of bringing new products to market should ensure a leading position for European aerospace engine manufacturers.

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