One of the main ways that aviation efficiency has advanced over the years is through the development of new, less fuel-hungry engines that produce less CO2. American engine maker Pratt & Whitney has played its part in this progress with their new engine.
Following 20 years and a $10 billion investment, Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower Geared Turbofan engine family is expected to come into service towards the end of 2015 on the Airbus A320neo aircraft. Thereafter, in early 2016 the engine will enter service on the Bombardier C Series. And, in the future, it is slotted for production on the Embraer E2, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet and the Irkut MC-21.
Rather than being more complex than previous engines, it actually relies more on simplicity, with fewer parts being used. A gear system separates the engine fan from the low pressure compressor and turbine, leaving each of these parts unhampered by the others. This means that the fan can rotate slower, burning less fuel, and leaving the compressor and turbine to operate at a high speed, which is optimal for all of the components. Of course, the lighter weight produced by fewer components also provides CO2 savings and the fact that the two major components are separated makes them easier to remove for maintenance.
The materials used are, of course, state of the art, with lightweight, heat-resistant composite materials featuring heavily. The manufacturing process, too, has become greener, with fewer hazardous chemicals being used due to Pratt & Whitney’s investment in developing superior non-hazardous substitute materials.