sealPurdue News

January 21, 2003

Purdue, Rolls-Royce propel aviation into the future

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Indianapolis-based Rolls-Royce Corp. today (Tuesday, 1/21) announced that it has formed a university technology center at Purdue University, an alliance in which researchers will work on propulsion technologies for future aircraft that may fly as fast as seven times the speed of sound.

This center, which is the first created at a university in the United States, is based at Purdue's Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, where engineers conduct research in propulsion.

"The U.S. model for the academic center at Purdue University is based on similar partnerships Rolls-Royce has formed within European universities but is adapted to U.S. academic and business practices," said Norm Egbert, vice president of engineering and technology for Rolls-Royce Corp., an Indianapolis-based subsidiary of Rolls-Royce plc.

Rolls-Royce has 19 university technology centers in the United Kingdom and one in Sweden and has strategic relationships with eight other universities, as well as with the German Aerospace Research Establishment. The university technology program provides support for product development and more fundamental research, including work to develop jet engines for advanced civilian and military aircraft.

Egbert said Purdue was an ideal choice for the center because of its high-quality research facilities, large number of engineering graduates and close proximity to the company's corporate offices in Indianapolis.

"The center will help Purdue further its research and educational goals," said Linda P.B. Katehi, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering at Purdue. "The establishment of the Rolls-Royce University Technology Center at Purdue is consistent with our strategic plans, which call for engagement with Indiana industries for collaborations that help the state's economy by creating new high-technology jobs."

Rolls-Royce and Purdue have worked together in previous research that received funding from the Indiana 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, established by the state to promote high-tech research and development and to help commercialize university research.

Engineers at the Zucrow Laboratories will be led by Stephen Heister, a professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Purdue will work with Rolls-Royce in research to develop engines for future aircraft that use high Mach propulsion systems to travel three to seven times the speed of sound, or up to 5,000 miles per hour.

"One major engineering hurdle will be to develop ways to cool the engines in these aircraft," said J.P. Gore, associate dean of engineering for research and the Vincent P. Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

The Purdue research engineers will study the behavior of jet fuels at the high temperatures and pressures required for high Mach propulsion aircraft. Researchers also will focus on creating a new class of fuel injectors for the engines.

Rolls-Royce also will work with Purdue engineers in collaboration with other global universities in the Rolls-Royce university technology network to study fatigue, vibration and other factors critical to improving the performance of jet engines, especially as they age. That component of the partnership with Rolls-Royce will be led by Sanford Fleeter, Purdue's McAllister Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Learning more about how jet engine components respond to vibration will enable researchers to develop ways to better predict the durability of the components, which will lead to improved safety, inspection and overhaul procedures.

"The center will provide an environment in which interdisciplinary research is encouraged," Gore said. "The company will benefit from the combined human resources and laboratory facilities of the various departments at Purdue.

"In turn, Rolls-Royce will enhance current research projects and educational goals at Purdue. In partnership with Purdue, Rolls-Royce will provide testing and validation of theoretical design applications, financial support, and opportunities for Purdue students and Rolls-Royce personnel to participate in the research and education provided through the program."

Rolls-Royce is a global company providing power for land, sea and air. It employs about 40,000 people in more than 30 countries, including more than 26,000 in the United Kingdom, 5,000 in the rest of Europe and more than 8,000 in North America.

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,

Rolls-Royce Corp. media contact: John Brown, (317) 230-4021,

Sources: Norm Egbert, (317) 230-4058,

Linda P.B. Katehi, (765) 494-5346,

J.P. Gore, (765) 494-1452,

Stephen Heister, (765) 494-5126,

Sanford Fleeter, (765)494-1504,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page