Cornerstone: Mechanical Engineering Science to Enable Aero Propulsion Futures

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering

Abstract

This partnership between the University of Nottingham, Rolls-Royce, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford will undertake research in order to advance six key areas of mechanical engineering science which will enable Rolls-Royce in particular (and the UK more generally) to remain at the forefront of aircraft propulsion throughout the transition to all-electric flight.

Across all modes of transport, the twin challenges of climate change and decreasing fossil fuel reserves has resulted in a concerted effort to find alternatives to traditional internal combustion engine technology. In transport sectors such as rail and automotive these challenges are increasingly being addressed through the introduction of new electric vehicle technologies which is revolutionising the market through new technologies, new market entries and new business models. Several estimates indicate that within 15 years the majority of new cars will be either all-electric or electric-hybrids with range extenders. The aerospace sector faces much greater challenges in moving towards low carbon propulsion, due in large part to the greater distances that must be covered between refuelling opportunities and the fact that battery technology has not yet developed significantly enough to address the challenges of long range travel. There is however a clear recognition across the aerospace industry that a transition to all-electric flight is both desirable and essential to the future of human mobility.

Rolls-Royce recently announced their commitment to a long-term future business model underpinned by hybrid-electric and all-electric flight and this partnership will undertake some of the critical, underpinning research which will enable this step-change. In order to meet the roadmaps set out by the Aerospace Growth Partnership and the Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe dramatic progress must be made in a number of technology areas in order to achieve a transition to all-electric flight.

CornerStone will advance six areas of mechanical engineering science:
1. High power-density contacts
2. Impact and Intelligent Failure Management
3. Advanced Static & Dynamic Load Management
4. Exploiting Aero-structural Interactions
5. Innovations in Thermal Management
6. Electro-Mechanical Interactions

The underpinning scientific developments and their integration into aerospace engine applications will equip Rolls-Royce to lead the global aerospace industry in the journey up to and including all-electric flight. Cornerstone will enable Rolls-Royce and subsequently other UK machine manufacturers to achieve a step-change increase in the value of their products and to shift the proportion of added-value away from pure manufacturing towards intelligent design.

Planned Impact

Cornerstone will benefit the aerospace industry by developing the underpinning mechanical engineering science which will retain the UK's leading position in aerospace propulsion throughout the transition to all-electric flight. The project will fundamentally change the architecture of engines resulting in:
1) Increased power density
2) Increased efficiency and reduced carbon emissions
3) Improved sustainability
4) Increased machine lifespans with decreased maintenance effort
5) Improved safety

These benefits will be realised primarily through Rolls-Royce. Technological advances made by the project will be embedded within the company at early stages ensuring rapid adoption of new technologies and a swift transition to market readiness.

The scientific breakthroughs that Cornerstone enables will also have a profound impact on Rolls-Royce's supply chain. Manufacturers of engines will be able to grow their market share nationally and internationally by offering a superior product. This will ultimately increase the competitiveness of the UK as manufacturer and exporter of high value goods.

Developments within this programme will be relevant across a number of sectors outside the immediate application area of Aerospace, including oil and gas exploration, energy, automotive, marine and submarine transport. All four project partners have extensive networks across multiple industry sectors which will be exploited to ensure knowledge transfer between sectors.

The project will also have extensive environmental benefits which will be realised across all application sectors through the reduction of carbon emissions and the use of less material to deliver more sustainability mobility and efficient use of resources

The Project's Operational Board will oversee the programme and ensure that opportunities are being maximised for achieving both academic and non-academic impact. The Project Governance Board will be responsible for overseeing all exploitation opportunities, supported by technology transfer specialists at all three universities who will assist in the identification and commercialisation of exploitable technologies.

Mechanisms for generating impact will include:
1. An annual showcase event and conference which will share scientific advances from the project as well as highlights of successes from collaborative working
2. Presenting project progress and outputs at industry exhibitions, such as the Farnborough and Paris Air Shows, and at academic and industry conferences such as the International Modal Analysis Conference, International Conference on Noise and Vibration Engineering and ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers
3. Publishing project findings in internationally-recognised journals in order to reach the wider scientific community.
4. Delivering a programme of secondments to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between industry and academia
5. Leveraging international industrial and governmental links to promote the take up of technologies and standards developed by the programme
6. Undertaking foresight and mapping exercises in order to identify a number of short, medium and longer term priority sectors and formulate engagement plans which build upon the established links of the partner institutions
7. In the latter half of the programme the project will also seek to develop policy and position papers in order to influence policymaking at national and international levels

The university partners will ensure that the outputs and learning from the project are accessible to the next generation of engineers and scientists through teaching, student projects and outreach activities at undergraduate and postgraduate level. In addition, the project will undertake a programme of public engagement as well as delivering a programme of external communications

Publications

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Andresen H (2021) Representation of incomplete contact problems by half-planes in European Journal of Mechanics - A/Solids

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Cwiekala N (2021) Half-plane contacts subject to remote tension in The Journal of Strain Analysis for Engineering Design

 
Description WP1 - Contact Behaviour: Analytical tools developed by the CornerStone team are being used in the analysis of in service issues with compressor blades. WP4 - Exploiting Aero Structural Interactions: Advances thus far include reduction of data storage requirements by 30% and providing for significant accelerations of computation. This work has been used to confirm the diagnosis of in service compressor issues in Rolls-Royce. WP6 on electromechanical interactions has contributed to understanding of potential forthcoming issue with an important electrical propulsion demonstrator programme. That issue arises in connection with parallel paths potentially causing an instability. We have been able to support and accelerate the customer acceptance of one major product delivery and resolve one design issue on a separate project.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Collaboration with "A*Star" in Singapore. Imperial College expertise on AeroElasticity complements expertise present at "A*Star". The collaboration involves high order schemes for unstructured meshes. 
Organisation Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Country Singapore 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Jointly developing new methods in aero-elasticity
Collaborator Contribution Significant experience in meshless methods.
Impact d. S. Stapelfeldt, C. Brandstetter, Non-synchronous vibration in axial compressors: Lock-in mechanism and semi-analytical model, Journal of Sound and Vibration, under review.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with FMC/Equinor 
Organisation Equinor
Country Norway 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Fundamental work performed by the group on the behaviour at the edges of a highly-stressed contact zone has been applied to wellheads.
Collaborator Contribution The industrial partner, FMC/Equinor, brought the problem and a great deal of insight into the operational environment. FMC/Equinor also provide a route to further exploitation of some of the work on contact mechanics.
Impact Up to now, only confidential reports have been produced.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Collaboration with MIT including four separate study visits by Dr. Sina Staplefelt during 2019 
Organisation Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Sharing of best practice in aeroelasticity computation.
Collaborator Contribution PRogramming expertise on HPCs and on GPUs as well as independent modelling capability.
Impact e. J. Harris, B. Lad, S.Stapelfeldt, Investigating the Causes of Outlet Guide Vane Buffeting, ASME Turbo Expo 2020, London, 22-26 June 2020, under review.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with SUPMECA (PARIS) by Loic Salles of Imperial COllege 
Organisation Supméca Institute of Mechanics of Paris
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution 1 month as a visiting professor. Delivery of three research seminars.
Collaborator Contribution Hosting the visit and collaborative work on non-linear vibration of complex systems.
Impact E. Denimal, F. El-Haddad, C. Wong, L. Salles, Multi-objective topological optimisation for nonlinear FRF with the MMC and global optimisation method, WCCM2020, Paris (France), 19-24 July 2020
Start Year 2019
 
Description CORNERSTONE Annual Conference 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Since 2018, the CORNERSTONE project has organised and run a conference annually. This provides an exceptional opportunity for all of the research students and post-doctoral research assistants to meet each other, challenge each other, present to a highly concentrated set of professional engineers and test out their ideas generally. These conferences have also featured a specific session for encouraging the integration of work across the different work-packages of the programme and for eliciting new ideas about directions for the future and areas of opportunity for IP development.

The 2020 conference was the largest one yet - notwithstanding the restrictions from COVID. That conference ran for a full three days and it included one and half days of presentations purely by the PhD students (and organised by the PhD students). It also included multiple breakout sessions for more detailed topic explorations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description CORNERSTONE Annual Conference 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Since 2018, the CORNERSTONE project has organised and run a conference annually. This provides an exceptional opportunity for all of the research students and post-doctoral research assistants to meet each other, challenge each other, present to a highly concentrated set of professional engineers and test out their ideas generally. These conferences have also featured a specific session for encouraging the integration of work across the different work-packages of the programme and for eliciting new ideas about directions for the future and areas of opportunity for IP development.

The 2020 conference was the largest one yet - notwithstanding the restrictions from COVID. That conference ran for a full three days and it included one and half days of presentations purely by the PhD students (and organised by the PhD students). It also included multiple breakout sessions for more detailed topic explorations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description CorneStone Annual Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The first CornerStone Conference was held in Nottingham in 2018 and attracted over 50 delegates as the project was beginning to expand rapidly. The 2019 conference was held at Oxford in June and brought together over 90 attendees, with 20 from Rolls-Royce, with 6 representatives from other companies which included DYSON, SKF and Reaction Engines Ltd (who delivered the keynote speech), as well as Queen's University of Belfast, Dresden University-Germany. This achieved excellent dissemination and ideas generation. The 2020 conference was held on line due to Covid and reached in excess of 140 delegates. It included the first CornerSonte Doctoral Training Conference. There was significant attendance from Rolls Royce & participating institutions. External organisations attending included Queen's University Belfast and Dyson (who delivered the keynote speech). A combined event is planned at Nottingham for June 2021 which will run as both an attended event and on line Conference - we expect to again have over 100 delegates from participating and collaborating institutions and also from Rolls Royce and interested industrial organisations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020