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New aircraft engine designs reduce CO2 emissions

The EU-funded NEWAC project has delivered new engine designs to help Europe meet pressing emission targets for air transport.

NEWAC conference. © Peter Gutierrez
New engine concepts on display in Munich.
© Peter Gutierrez

At any given moment, the skies above Europe are jammed with thousands of passenger and cargo aircraft, providing crucial services for European society and the economy, but also emitting massive amounts of CO2. And the problem is not going away; global air traffic is forecast to continue to grow at an annual rate of around 5% over the next 20 years. According to the influential STERN Review report, emissions from the aviation industry will triple by 2050. The  NEWACexternal link project is developing and testing novel core engine technologies aimed at closing the gap between current emissions levels and emission reduction targets.

Speaking at a meeting of NEWAC partners in Munich in July 2010, the European Commission's Deputy Head of Aeronautics Research Daniel Chiron explained that new engine technologies can help bring emissions down: "Of course, the amount of emissions being generated by aircraft engines depends on how those engines work, how they are designed. Clearly, alternative and innovative engine configurations need to be investigated."

New technologies to cut emissions

Stephan Servaty and Daniel Chiron © Peter Gutierrez
Stephan Servaty and Daniel
© Peter Gutierrez

NEWAC project coordinator Stephan Servaty of MTU Aero Engines says, "Our goal has been to fully validate novel technologies enabling a 6% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 16% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx). Now, after some four years of intensive collaborative research, these goals have nearly been achieved."

NEWAC brought together 40 organisations, including the major European engine manufacturers, small and medium-sized enterprises, and universities and research centres, who investigated four new, highly technical and highly innovative core engine configurations.

Leaner and cleaner

"We and our partners developed and tested lean-combustion concepts for very low NOx emissions," says Servaty. "In addition, we conducted intensive test runs with compressors and novel, active control systems to improve stability and efficiency, yielding very promising results, and we designed more efficient and lightweight compressors."

"The success of this project is indisputable," says Chiron. "Although the business case for their introduction in commercial operations still has to be made, that should not be so complicated. This is a situation where what's good for society – cleaner and more efficient air transport – is also good for business."