NEWAC Sub-Project 4 “Active Core” – Editorial by Stephan Bock

[Begleittext / Subline: Dr. Stephan Bock MTU Aero Engines ]

It was in the spring of 2006 when I first heard the acronym NEWAC. At the time, my boss was suggesting that I should lead the NEWAC sub-project “Active Core” that was about to be kicked off. Thrilled by the concept of such a large, multinational research project, I gladly accepted the offer and was in charge of the sub-project throughout the last three years.

NEWAC has now become a familiar expression to me, but still causes raised eyebrows by people not involved in the project. NEWAC is the acronym for “NEW  Aero engine Core concepts” which is a joint effort by academia and industry to tackle some of the most important and challenging problems that air transport is facing today. Namely, NEWAC is targeting a reduction of CO2, and NOX emissions simultaneously by 6% and 16% respectively. It is developing technology that can be used in combination with results from other technology programs, thus effectively cutting emissions of CO2 by up to 20% and of NOX by almost 80%.

Even more than these impressive figures, what really drew me to this project was the level of international cooperation that it constitutes. Partially funded by the EU, 40 partners from all over Europe have joined forces to advance engine technology. From my previous experience in the GP7000 engine program for the Airbus A380 before, I was familiar with large multinational projects, but the level of multicultural diversity within NEWAC was still unprecedented to me. Now, after almost three years, I have to admit that I am still amazed and impressed by how well these teams are working together. Even the large industrial partners like Rolls Royce, Snecma, Avio or MTU, that are often competing fiercely in the aeroengine market, are all working towards the same objectives within NEWAC. Within my sub project, for example, the cooperation between MTU Aero Engines and Volvo Aero has become routine and through the years, a climate of openness and trust has developed between the experts on both sides.

The partners involved in NEWAC cover the whole spectrum of technology development from fundamental and more basic research to highly complex full scale test rigs. In addition, comprehensive numerical investigations are accompanying these testing efforts to reach all required targets. This bandwidth can only be covered by having aboard academic institutions as well as industry partners of various size and field of expertise.

The complex, large test rigs are typically built and operated by the engine manufacturers whereas the smaller tests are mostly in the responsibility of universities. The larger engine manufacturers, that each have the role to lead one sub-project, coordinate these efforts and guarantee that the NEWAC test results are useful for future jet engine projects. An example of such a close cooperation is the casing treatment rig operated at RWTH Aachen University. It was developed together with MTU Aero Engines and will provide results that can lead to highly efficient new compressor designs.

In addition to the large engine manufacturers and academia, small and medium enterprises are an integral part of NEWAC. For the “Active Core”, Steigerwald Strahltechnik (Germany), Sonats (France) and Vibrometer (Switzerland) are partnered to investigate manufacturing and sensor technology. As I found out first hand, these technologies are key to enabling some of the active technologies that form my sub-project. The sensor technology, for example, allows permanent monitoring and control of the high pressure compressor. Manufacturing technology complements the tasks by allowing lighter, stronger parts of higher quality, and in turn help to reduce fuel burn. The contact to these partners has personally helped me understand the problems that these companies are facing and that are sometimes distinctly different from those of a jet engine manufacturer. In this respect, NEWAC has also broadened my horizon.

Even though NEWAC is a fairly large program, it is set up to react to changing needs or new insights that form during the duration of the program. I had the chance to experience first hand that learning can lead to adjustments in the program when, after the initial concept phase, we found that a series of rig tests would yield a greater benefit towards the overall goals than the originally planned full core test. The subsequent reorientation of the test programme for our new technologies resulted in more closely controlled tests and allowed to investigate a much broader variety of parameters. The fact, that such a change during a running program is possible, shows the flexibility of the EU integrated project approach.

When all NEWAC activities are completed, approximately one year from today, lots of new insights will have been found that will influence future jet engine developments. For me, it will also mark the end of an extremely interesting, challenging and educating project. I already have experienced first hand, how European cooperation can work simultaneously to the benefit of our environment and industry, and I am looking forward to the final results and the development of future engines that have “NEWAC” technology inside.