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The University of Southampton

Research project: Rolls-Royce SILOET (Strategic Investment in Low-carbon Engine Technology) Project

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Rolls-Royce is now a leading manufacturer of aircraft engines. A considerable concern is the effect of engine emissions on the environment and governments around the world are planning legislation to limit such emissions.

Rolls-Royce engine fan assembly used as a case study in SILOET
Rolls-Royce engine fan

The SILOET programme was designed to accelerate the development and introduction of low carbon aircraft engine technology. The results from this programme are expected to deliver a 2% improvement in engine fuel economy and enable delivery of the government goals. The programme consists of 7 projects which will look at lightweight structures, high temperature materials and technology, lean burn systems, virtual engineering tools, and advanced components.

If it is assumed that SILOET technology is applied to both wide body and narrow body aircraft, and that enhanced competitiveness increases the pressure to reduce fuel burn across the whole industry, then the CO2 savings could be as large as 600-750 million tonnes. This contributes directly both to UK Government Low Carbon Industrial Strategy and goals to reduce aviation emissions. The programme started in 2009 and completed in 2013.

Southampton is undertaking work in a number of areas within SILOET. In particular Southampton has developed sophisticated computer tools that allow designers to accurately predict the cost implications of a range of design options. In particular the Southampton team has been working in a research field known as "Value Driven Design" (VDD). The computer tools that underlie this work allow trade-offs between such things as fuel economy, emissions, manufacturing complexity and service life of parts. The designer of an aircraft engine has to develop a design that balances these conflicting goals very carefully.

Southampton is also researching methods for understanding variations in the shapes of manufactured projects that lie within acceptable tolerances and their impact on structural performance. In particular it is important in aero-engine manufacture to be able to use data from coordinate measuring machines to understand the effects of tolerance decisions on the predicted life of critical components such as turbine discs.

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