The Government has praised work by Durham University to improve the design of Rolls Royce jet engines on the world’s largest airliner.
More than 1,000 aircraft carrying passengers all over the world have more efficient engines, saving fuel and causing less pollution, as a result of turbine technology developed at the university.
It comes as a result of Durham’s partnership with Rolls Royce, whose engines are fitted to planes including the world’s largest airliner the Airbus 380.
Work on the turbines was examined in a government exercise to measured for the first time how university research was a benefit to society.
More efficient gas, steam and wind turbines have also been developed by Durham University, which works in partnership with industry and other centres, such as the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, formerly the National Renewable Energy Centre (NAREC), based at Blyth, Northumberland.
Rolls Royce adopted a new shape for the turbine endwall – the inner edge of the blade, where it attaches to the spinning central rotor - for its Trent engines, which are fitted to more than 1,000 aircraft.
It is estimated that an aircraft flying from Zurich to Singapore saves 1,750 litres of fuel if its engines have these ‘profiled endwalls’.
Dr Grant Ingram, who led the research project at Durham University, said that more efficient jet engines not only reduce costs but help to protect the environment through lower emissions.
The turbine endwall project is one of 89 ‘impact case studies’ to investigate how university research has benefited society.
Professor Simon Hogg, Director of Durham Energy Institute (DEI) and a specialist in turbomachinery, said: “The design of turbines, from the shape of the blades to the efficiency and reliability of their gearboxes, generators and bearing systems, are all important for reducing cost and increasing reliability of power generation.
“The key issue for wind power is the high cost of generating electricity compared to burning fossil fuels, so there is a big focus on research to reduce the cost of energy from wind turbines by making them more efficient and by improving their reliability,”
Durham University research postgraduate Alison Auld is carrying out a project on generating electricity from low temperature heat sources.
She is currently researching using this technology for geothermal energy applications and sources of waste heat in the UK.
Generating electricity from low temperature heat is increasingly important in order to find alternative methods of generating electricity to lower emissions.