Rolls-Royce, Purdue, state of Indiana announce new initiative to develop next-generation jet engine components

People standing in front of jet turbine

June 19, 2017 |

Rolls-Royce, Purdue University and the state of Indiana have announced a new $24 million jointly funded program that further strengthens the state’s leadership position in the aerospace industry.

The initiative, announced at the Paris Air Show in June, will establish unique gas turbine research capabilities at Purdue’s Zucrow Laboratories that will focus on advanced turbine aerodynamic and heat-transfer technologies. Rolls-Royce will apply these technologies to jet engine airfoil components – blades and vanes – in current and next-generation jet engines produced at the company’s Indiana facilities.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is supporting this partnership with $6 million over the next three years through the Indiana 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which promotes Indiana economic growth and innovation-driven public-private partnerships. Purdue University is supplying facilities and equipment infrastructure investments of $8 million, with Rolls-Royce committed to contribute up to $10 million.

A new turbine test rig will be installed and research will be done at the Purdue Experimental Turbine Aerothermal Laboratory, which is a recent expansion of the Zucrow Laboratories. Zucrow Laboratories, which is located in the Purdue Aerospace District, is one of the nation’s largest university propulsion laboratories for research aimed at reducing fuel consumption and emissions for next-generation jet engines. Purdue has 40 faculty and graduate students working on current Rolls-Royce research projects.

“Rolls-Royce continues to address our customer’s needs for powerful thrust and fuel efficiency. This agreement will allow us to work with Purdue’s innovative jet propulsion labs at Zucrow to construct modern, efficient advanced turbine airfoils for current and future engines,” said Phil Burkholder, president, Defense Aerospace, Rolls-Royce North America.

“Working together with the state of Indiana and Purdue University, we are strengthening the state’s aerospace industry. The strong relationships we enjoy in the state enable us to make significant and repeated investments like these in Indiana – from our recent $600 million facility modernization and technology initiative, to the opening of our facility earlier this year at Purdue’s new Aerospace District in West Lafayette,” said Marion Blakey, president and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America. “Together, we are ensuring that Indiana remains a leader in the aerospace industry for decades to come.”

“Purdue and Rolls-Royce have a long history of collaboration in research and development that leads ultimately to critical advances in the aerospace industry,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. “With the additional support from the state of Indiana, we look forward to even greater successes for our partners, our researchers and our students.”

“Here on the world stage of the Paris Air Show, Indiana’s leadership in the global aerospace industry is clear,” said Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb. “Many of the innovations we’re seeing presented on the trade show floor were fostered by key partnerships between our state’s universities and industry leaders. With this latest team-up between the state, Purdue and Rolls-Royce, I can’t wait to see new turbine technology take flight in Indiana.”

Turbine airfoils are individual components within a jet engine that extract energy from the high temperature, high pressure air produced by the combustor. They operate in the hottest part of the jet engine, in temperatures that are far greater than the melting point of metals. Engineering excellence, advanced materials and modern manufacturing methods help cool the turbine airfoils to provide optimum performance in this extreme environment.

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