Page 18 - European Energy Innovation - Summer 2014
P. 18
Summer 2014 European Energy Innovation


May the Force be with you!

By Luc Tytgat operational context. As a long with new technology which
standing strategy to address has rather reached its limits for
Thrust is a reaction movement of cargo and people, improvement.
force described by hydrocarbon based fuel coupled
Newton’s laws when a with oxygen combustion It would not be fair to say nothing
system expels mass in principle are at the heart of the has changed over the last few
one direction, the accelerated aeronautical industry concerns decades; earlier improvements
mass will cause a force of equal as aircraft is developed and were unnoticed because they
magnitude in the opposite supported according to systems focused on building better and
direction on that system. that use air contained oxygen to quieter engines with higher
Powered aircraft use this flight convert liquid fuel energy into performance and improved fuel
principle by pushing the air mass mechanical energy to perform consumption. There have also
out of the back of the engine and work. been breakthroughs in computer
where Thrust overcomes Drag controls and fly-by-wire systems,
allowing aircraft to move forward This context applies to piston which make a big difference to
and therefore creates wing and jet engine aircrafts that use the pilot and aircraft performance,
aerodynamic Lift to cancel out combustion of hydrocarbon fuels but not to the passengers. And
the aircraft’s Weight for vertical and since the introduction of in recent years, the biggest
suspension. commercial aircraft in the 1950s, development has been the use
the struggles to challenge gravity of strong, but lightweight plastics
Basically, overall efficiency can and aerodynamics, the recent and composite materials rather
be determined by the aircraft issues of environmental impacts than metals, reducing the weight
configuration as a whole by (in term of CO2 and noise of planes and the amount of
considering airframe, jet engine emissions), the transportation fuel burnt. Both giants Airbus
and fuel used under specific demand, the evolution of A380 and Boeing Dreamliner
operational use and the rising are now representative of these
Luc Tytgat fossil fuels costs, all of these have innovations.
contributed to driving aviation
innovation towards new frontiers. As far as the core part of the
Since then, it is well recognized aircraft is concerned, i.e. the
by experts that, nowadays, powerplant, engineers have
aircraft’s overall efficiency has put their biggest efforts into
improved by 70% and the tackling new requirements and
prospect for further gains of 1.5% challenges, still through using
annually up to 2020 is foreseen conventional force: CFM aero-
by engine manufacturers. engine manufacturer developed
However, the 1.5% annual target exclusive powerplant for
sparked controversy on the Boeing 737 Max family where
limited and finite technological fuel efficiency is optimized
improvement and I can’t resist in maintaining reliability and
highlighting that improvement maintenance costs legacy of the
has somehow stagnated over the CFM56 family. General Electric
past two decades underlining sets new standards for low cabin
the too optimistic prediction. noise, low emissions and fuel
Arguably, this stagnation reminds consumption performance.
us that aircraft can never achieve Pratt & Whitney is matching fuel
zero fuel consumption and this efficiency and ease maintenance.
suggests that air-breathing Rolls Royce minimizes operating
propulsion (combustion) is costs and carbon emissions for
at a critical crossroads as an the latest aircraft family from
old concept was made better Airbus. SAFRAN developed
   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23