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‘EEFAE’ – efficient, eco-friendly aircraft engines

New cleaner aircraft engines will soon be tested under aegis of the EEFAE project, co-funded by the EU and involving all of Europe’s major aero-engine companies. Researchers say the project will bring multiple benefits to civil aviation via reduced NOx and CO2 emissions and substantially lower engine purchase and operating costs.

‘EEFAE’ – efficient, eco-friendly aircraft engines

The five-year ‘Efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft engine’ project will receive a total of €101.4 million in funding, half from the European Commission and the other half from EEFAE’s 20 industrial, university and research partners.

Triple by-pass: reducing emissions, fuel and engine price

EEFAE partners have set ambitious objectives, namely to bring down an engine’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions, fuel consumption and life-cycle costs. For instance, EEFAE aims to reduce CO 2 emissions by as much as 20 percent and NOx emissions by an impressive 60-to-80 percent, while, at the same time, cutting engine life cycle (repair and maintenance) costs by nearly one-third.

“We are convinced that life cycle costs can be cut by 30 percent and the purchase price of an engine can also be brought down,” said EEFAE project manager Kish Ram, from British engine maker Rolls-Royce. To do so, he said, requires improving existing technologies and processes on today’s engines as well as creating new ones.

Boosting performance

A key focus of EEFAE is to coax better combustion from an engine, which means improving how it burns fuel and re-cycles its by-products of heat and emissions. Explains Ram, “One of our main objectives is to capture heat from the engines’ exhaust chambers and re-cycle it through compressors. Currently, a lot of heat and energy that could be re-used is simply thrown out into the environment.”

Another goal is to reduce the weight and size of engine-related components and systems, such as gearboxes or the control system that regulates an engine’s rate of combustion. A typical large-engine control system is a black metallic cube about the size of a desktop computer screen that is bolted to the engine. “We want to reduce its cubic ‘footprint’ to fit on half the surface of an A4 page,” says Ram.

But to get there, EEFAE has to do two things: create more advanced software to handle new components inside the box and reduce the size of the components themselves, which means crowding smaller parts closer together. According to Ram,“These have to be tested for vibration and new levels of heat and electromagnetic interference due to their closer proximity to one another. But we’re confident we’ll get there.”

Coming down to the line

EEFAE’s various technologies will soon converge into two new engine prototypes to be tested in the second half of 2004. By October the engine destined for regional jets, dubbed CLEAN, will go to its test-bed in Stuttgart, while EEFAE’s larger engine, code-named ANTLE, heads for Madrid.

After several months of testing, the world’s airlines will be invited to see the results during the first quarter of 2005. ANTLE is targeted at the Airbus A340 family and selected Boeing models, while CLEAN can be integrated into a wide range of regional-sized aircraft, says Ram.