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Advanced materials - flying high

Prof Ric Parker | Rolls-Royce

Advanced materials - flying high

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When Frank Whittle built and flew his first jet engine, the available steels for the turbine blade limited the temperature, post-combustion to just over 800C. In today's gas-turbine compressor (before the combustor), the temperature is already over 700C and post combustion the turbine blade must withstand a temperature of over 1700C. This is enabled by the latest nickel super-alloys, formed as single crystals, coated with advanced ceramics and cooled internally. Throughout the history of the jet engine advances in material engineering have been the key to improved efficiency, increased safety, reduced weight and reduced environmental impact. The advances have not only been in metallics.

Composite materials play a significant part in reducing the weight of aircraft and also engines. Composite materials are appearing not just as carbon/polymer composites, but increasingly in the hot-end through the use of Ceramic Matrix Composites, and enabling further weight reduction through Metal Matrix Composites. The speaker will review the advances in material science, materials processing, computational modelling and manufacturing technology which have facilitated these great achievements. Ric Parker will also review the Rolls-Royce collaborative model which takes new technology from the university laboratory to the production centre. This has been ably supported over the years by Cambridge University.