Innovation, Infrastructure and Knowledge Transfer

ULTIMATE prepares the ground for future breakthrough products and services

reduce the environmental impact of air transport

Carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions will not by themselves be sufficient to stabilize fleet emissions. The radical ULTIMATE technologies are complementary to the projected development, they achieve substantial additional CO2 reductions because:

  • conventional engine and airframe development will be able to continue targeted rates of improvements until 2050,
  • current exponential growth of air traffic moderates,
  • ULTIMATE technologies aim for entry into service around 2050, but are introduced progressively across the whole fleet within 25 years after introduction saving over 3 billion tons of CO2 emissions in that period.

The significant potential for reduced fuel and energy consumption inherent to the core technology concepts investigated within ULTIMATE can have a strong positive impact on reducing fuel costs, and thus, the operational costs of aircraft. When combined with advanced quiet propulsive devices and low-noise airframe design, the technology concept could help reducing community noise. The emission and cost reduction will also improve the societal acceptance of the environmental repercussions of increasing (civil) air transport in the future.

enhance mobility

Enhanced mobility in civil air travel must be supported by the whole air transport system, the vehicles must provide the basis for this by allowing flexible air and ground operations. The ULTIMATE engine performance with a flatter efficiency curve will provide flexibility for short flight mission times and an increased range of operating altitudes. A flatter curve results in lower fuel burn penalties for off-design operation and so encourages higher flexibility with regard to cruise speed and altitude. More flexible air operations are possible, and passengers’ mobility enhances.
ULTIMATE will further contribute to increased mobility by providing noise reductions helping to limit curfews at airports. The ultra-efficient, low-noise propulsor technologies may reduce perceivable noise levels around airports notably. This will increase societal acceptance of air transport and potentially allow for the improved use of existing ground infrastructure, thereby enhancing system transport capacity.

enhance competiveness

Engines must be safe, deliver the thrust with good operability and be quiet, clean and extremely reliable. When these essential requirements are met, the main competitive elements are low selling price and low maintenance costs, meeting payload/range and weight targets and fuel economy or energy efficiency. Fuel burn is a function of weight and installation drag as well as of specific fuel consumption (SFC). With the high fuel prices of today and expectations for tomorrow, it is no longer possible to sell engines that are 2-3% less fuel efficient than the best in class. The long technology acquisition and product development timescales mean that all engine manufacturers need to have long-term plans to be able to provide competitive and even more fuel efficient engines. The benefits of ULTIMATE fuel-efficient propulsion technology will be visible across the whole commercial fleet, particularly in the long-range aircraft. In fact, the ULTIMATE technologies will put the European engine industry in the position to be the first to move beyond the limits of conventional turbofans.

ULTIMATE focuses on novel technologies with industrial relevance, providing module and component requirements for future more conventional engine technologies. Transfer of knowledge to industry engineers and technology planners are key in the project:

  • Dedicated workshops with the engineering departments of the aero engine manufacturers are held to increase in-house awareness for these new technologies.
  • A public workshop will be organized at the Farnborough International Airshow.

In addition, ULTIMATE assembles roadmaps relating to ongoing European industry research. The radical propulsion systems studied within ULTIMATE – explored in their basic principles and consistently formulated at the conceptual level – will be matured to Technological Readiness Level (TRL) of 1 to 2 and aim. Comparatively rapid TRL advancements of the ULTIMATE technologies are expected, once they are elevated to a consistent and robust concept formulation after the project is successfully completed. ULTIMATE will provide a roadmap for medium term development (TRL 3-5) of these technologies, with the aim of providing breakthrough technology propulsion systems for future aircraft products.
With a view to the challenging long-terms goals in the aviation sector, ULTIMATE results will in turn provide guidelines for policy makers and industry for defining a suitable technology roadmap to meet SRIA 2050 targets.

ULTIMATE ad-hoc indicators and evaluation of improvement potential

Air transport in the year 2050 will be almost exclusively based on Advanced Tube and Wing (ATW) aircraft with podded engines using kerosene and/or a sustainable replacement fuel. Considering the long development cycles in aeronautics, more revolutionary aircraft concepts are less realistic at present. The ULTIMATE advanced propulsor technologies are adjusted to alternative configurations and thus go far beyond an ATW configuration with podded engines. Application of ULTIMATE´s engine and integration configurations will

  • reduce the SFC by about 15%.
  • Including the contributions of conventional propulsion technologies development until 2050 and the ATW airframe technologies, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions can be reduced by 68% – excluding possible benefits from biofuels.
  • The ULTIMATE radical thermodynamic cycles provide an excellent opportunity for reduced nitrogen oxide (NOx) which reduces Landing-Take-Off cycle  (LTO) NOx by 75%.
  • It also supports the 90% overall and cruise NOx  SRIA targets with 87% contribution from the vehicle and the balance from operational efficiency.
  • For noise, the advanced podded integration applied to large fans with reduced tip speed and technologies for reduced core noise provides the SRIA targeted noise reduction of 15 dB per operation.

Strengthening European competitiveness and growth with alternative designs

The European industry is projected to continue growing faster than the economy as a whole, underpinning its importance. ULTIMATE will increase competitiveness through a higher pace of innovation. The aero engine companies represented in ULTIMATE form an export-led industry providing significant balance of trade benefits. The close link between academia and industry will ensure quicker assessment of new innovative ideas from research for their industrial applicability and realization potential and finally accelerate take-up and further commercial development.

ULTIMATE will make a long-term contribution to European competitiveness on a global level by exploring economic and environment performance of alternative designs. In the past, product design and manufacture have been located and driven by the market and legislative needs of the EU, US and Japan – markets with the majority of sales. The large growth in developing economies is changing the sales destination of civil aerospace products. Important proportions of the sales now take place in these emerging economies where different design solutions with equally good environment performance may apply. Although environmental performance is not yet the key sales argument in these emerging countries, this could change quite soon. Identifying the more competitive options in local scenarios internationally will sustain the long competitive advantage of European Aerospace industry.

Having a clear vision of future propulsion concepts is valuable for the formulation of future global rules and standards. ULTIMATE technologies can partially break the links between compressor pressure, efficiency and emissions, possible necessitating rethinking regulation. The Flightpath 2050 Report on Europe’s Vision for Aviation predicts 25 million commercial flights per annum in Europe alone by 2050. Cycle innovations are essential to maintaining historic rates of powerplant efficiency improvements beyond 2040. And more radical changes are needed to maintain these improvements through 2050. ULTIMATE will, in this way, be in line with the European transport policy Flightpath 2050, which expects from the aviation sector to move towards sustainability and reduction of emissions.

Society and Education

New jobs for highly educated people in Europe

The direct and intense collaboration between industry and academia provides detailed insight into the needs and processes of the aeronautics industry for the researchers at the ULTIMATE academic partners. New talented and highly skilled researchers will be trained in ULTIMATE for a professional future in aeronautics research and engineering. In the long term, the implementation of the ULTIMATE technologies will provide substantial additional high added-value jobs for the manufacture, servicing and maintenance of the new engines, in Europe and across the aero engine supply chain in Europe and elsewhere.

A network of multidisciplinary technology clusters involving industry, universities and research institutes

The ULTIMATE project is embedded in an established multidisciplinary network based on collaboration between industry and academia in Europe. This network has initially been set-up in the framework of two large FP6 integrated projects, namely VITAL and NEWAC, which contributed to several integrated research projects in FP7 such as DREAM, LEMCOTECE-BREAK and ENOVAL. ULTIMATE aims to further develop this network and thus to contribute to the corresponding SRIA 2050 aim of challenge 5. One of the results from this network – directly supported by the ULTIMATE project results – will be the development of an efficient European platform able to deal with aircraft multi-systems in the main frame of reducing noise impact and fuel consumption.