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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T018518/1
Title: Aerospace casting for the hybrid electric future
Principal Investigator: Withey, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Rolls-Royce Plc
Department: Metallurgy and Materials
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 May 2020 Ends: 30 April 2025 Value (£): 937,245
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Energy Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Manufacturing
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Feb 2020 Man Fellows 7 Interview Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The drive to an environmentally sustainable future will have a great impact on the aerospace industry. This has already been acknowledged by the Chief Technical Officers of the seven largest aerospace companies when they signed a joint statement at the Paris Airshow this year outlining the industry approach to support a more sustainable future. The approach outlined has three strands that will be pursued: more efficient gas turbines, biofuels and the electrification of the power train. Whilst there is a current drive to use batteries to power aircraft for routes of up to 1000km the current studies the options for transcontinental flights are being focussed on hybrid electric power. (e.g. Visions of the future: hybrid electric propulsion, Cheryl Bowman AIAA Aircraft Electric/Hybrid-Electric Power & Propulsion Workshop, July 28, 2016, and Reed A. Danis, Michael W. Green, and Jeffrey L. Freeman Examining the Conceptual Design Process for Future Hybrid-Electric Rotorcraft NASA/CR-2018-219897)

In the cases of the more efficient gas turbines and the hybrid electric solutions a small, highly efficient gas turbine core will be needed. As the high pressure turbine blade is the defining component for the efficiency of the gas turbine the manufacture of these components will be key reaching these efficiency targets. In fact the traditional single crystal casting of turbine blades will not only be required for these aircraft with projected market entry dates of 2035 but it will need to be enhanced and improved to deliver the small, highly complex turbine blades which are being planned.

As the conditions seen in the heart of the gas turbine have increased over the years the stresses within the blades and the temperatures seen by them have pushed the materials closer to their limits. The single crystal cast material has been seen as the ideal solution to these higher stresses and hotter temperatures. Now, however, it is not the laboratory measured properties which determine the in-engine performance but the casting defects which come from trying to align 6x1024 atoms in a single blade which are becoming more critical to the life calculations. These atomic misalignments can be seen in the components as second grains and the majority of single crystal components in service have these grains but they are expected to be benign as they have only a small misalignment. However the study of secondary grains in single crystal materials has not been widely undertaken as the material is not supposed to contain a second grain in service and the samples are difficult to manufacture.

The Fellowship will have two broad goals: to improve the single crystal casting process for complex, small features and to look at the formation of grain defects and predict the impact of them on the properties of the material. As the features seen in the casting will drive the generation of second grains these two goals are interlinked. My experience in casting real components in an industrial environment and also my knowledge of the direction of design concepts will allow this work to be appropriate to industry but academic in nature.

As these projected hybrid electric engines will begin their lengthy design and testing phase from 2025 onward this Fellowship is well timed to deliver the scientific understanding needed prior to this date.

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Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk