The enduring value of long-term partnerships

Working with Rolls-Royce to develop advanced aviation technologies – improving engine efficiency and reducing environmental impacts

The UK aerospace industry is the second largest in the world with an annual turnover of about $45 billion – providing half of the engines sold for widebody aircraft.

Over the next 20 years, this market is expected to total $2.7 trillion (ATI, 2019).

Image: NCCAT Test Cell 5 – Intermediate Pressure Combustion Facility

Our impact

Accelerating R&D and the route to commercialisation

  • We contribute directly to Rolls-Royce’s design process, proposing and validating improvements at both a system and component level.
  • Our detailed aerothermal data supports engine performance and fuel consumption modelling before the need for expensive engine tests.
  • We had a direct impact on the Trent XWB – the world's most efficient large aircraft engine – which powers the Airbus A350.

Sharing expertise and knowledge

  • Our experiments and numerical simulations capture the fundamental physics which occur in the engine environment, supplying Rolls-Royce with much needed data.
  • Rolls-Royce employees regularly spend time with us, and we have a unique secondment scheme allowing our researchers to spend a year at Rolls-Royce.

Contributing to the national infrastructure for combustion system research

  • Our approach for developing aerothermal technology has been extended to a national level.
  • In 2020, we opened the £15 million National Centre for Combustion and Aerothermal Technology (NCCAT).
  • NCCAT will be the UK’s primary hub for R&D of future low-emission aero gas turbine combustion technologies.
  • It was developed in collaboration with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Innovate UK, the Royal Academy of Engineering, Rolls-Royce plc and the University.
  • Its launch was described by the Government as “investing £14 million with Rolls-Royce and Loughborough University in a collaborative research and technology project to reduce engine emissions”.

The research

Our research explores all areas relating to the complex aerothermal processes within gas turbine combustion systems.

The primary remit of the UTC is to conduct a coordinated programme of computational and experimental research around current and future gas-turbine combustion systems.

A particular focus is placed upon design and performance aspects influenced by aerodynamic and aerothermal processes, including the fundamental aerodynamic flows found within various gas turbine components such as diffusing flows, wake mixing separated flows, streamline curvature, highly swirling flows, and vorticity.

It also encompasses the study of flows within more complex engine representative environments considering, for example, the aerodynamic interfaces between the combustion system and its neighbouring engine components.

A lot of our work spans multi-disciplinary areas where the aerodynamic flow field strongly interacts with - and influences - other processes such as in two-phase flows in the fuel injector, aero acoustic features of the combustion system, combustion instabilities and heat transfer and component cooling.

Our experimental and numerical expertise is relevant to a number of other areas including compressor transition ducts, fuel pumps, cavitation and fluid hammer.

The combination of excellent research, concentrated doctoral training, and strong industrial links continues to result in academic research making a real impact in the UK.

Professor Mark Jefferies Chief of University Research Liaison – Rolls-Royce

Research funders

  • ATI
  • BEIS
  • European Commission (Framework Programmes - Horizon 2020, Clean Sky)
  • Innovate UK
  • Rolls-Royce

Development partners

  • Rolls-Royce