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Development of Advanced Actuation Concepts to Provide a Step Change in Technology Use in Future Aero-engine Control Systems


Major strides have been made in the detail of monitoring and control of gas turbine engines, though very little has changed in what is physically controlled or the actuator mechanisms themselves. This project will review the available advanced actuation technologies, identify how they can be used within a gas turbine, assess the benefits and demonstrate the technology applicability with laboratory work.

Project objectives

Recent developments in actuation mechanisms provide many opportunities for new control functions that could provide a step change in the capabilities of machines.

The prime objective of ADVACT is to enable improvements in operation, availability, costs and environmental impact of gas turbines by the provision of extended in-flight actuation and control of engine parameters. This will include localised autonomous optimisation as well as interfaces with more conventional control systems. The identified technologies will undergo extensive studies to consider the operational manufacturing, application and environmental issues.

Description of the work

The first task is a broad ranging, generic study of the benefits of extended actuation capability coupled to the development of specific technologies, which will demonstrate the capabilities for identified applications. This will provide clear quantification of the potential for these rapidly emerging technologies.

The fundamental technical work will then develop previously identified technologies towards being suitable and available for specific applications in the gas turbine environment. The technologies will be:

  • Cascade airflow control – airflow through blades and vanes will be characterised, and strategies and methods for their control will be developed with the aim of providing both drag and directional control to replace mechanical Variable Guide Vanes.
  • Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) – devices suitable for use in the control of airflows will be developed to feed into other activities and to identify the way forward for commercial developments.
  • Boundary layer control for intakes and diffusers will be characterised, and strategies and methods for their control developed.
  • Shape Memory Alloys (SMAs) for variable nozzles and aerofoils will be improved to provide higher temperature capabilities. Manufacturing and processing methods will be developed to produce the larger forms required for gas turbine applications.
  • Advanced electromagnetic actuation methods for fuel flow and tip clearance will be developed to provide direct actuation within the gas turbine environment.
  • Active vibration control strategies and equipment will be developed to provide technologies for reduced vibration transmission to the airframe.

Expected results

The project is structured so as to provide clear visibility of the benefits to the industry and raise the credibility of advanced actuation by technology demonstrations. These demonstrations are aimed at key requirements that are well recognised in the industry but have previously been impractical with current technologies. The benefits that have already been identified demonstrate that these technologies will be indispensable to achieving a greater market share and conforming to future legislation, particularly with respect to environmental impact.