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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Rolls-Royce creates new university technology centres
Rolls-Royce creates new university technology centres
Keywords: Aircraft, Components, Electrical
Increased use of electrical technology for propulsion and other vehicle sub-systems is already evident in new products coming to market in the marine sector, while broader aerospace industry studies and research programmes include “more-electric” engines and aircraft as a fundamental area for technological advances.
More-electric means replacing direct mechanical drive equipment, hydraulic systems and pneumatic systems with electrical components. For aircraft, this allows a global optimisation of a common electrical system across the airframe and removal of the radial drive shaft and gearboxes from the engine – ultimately paving the way towards an oil-free engine.
For marine vessels, removing the conventional mechanical drive train enables greater design freedom for naval architects and the resulting connectivity of electrical systems offers greater operational flexibility.
Rolls-Royce is opening two new University Technology Centres (UTCs) to pursue research in these innovative electrical technologies for aerospace, marine and energy applications.
This development reflects the rapidly increasing importance of electrical power systems in each of the company's key markets. The quest for enhanced technologies is driven by customer demands for improvements in performance, capabilities and services. Emerging electrical technologies have the potential to meet these demands by enabling major improvements in system integration and product functionality.
A new University Technology Centre (UTC) in Advanced Electrical Machines and Drives will be created at the University of Sheffield, while at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), a UTC in Electrical Systems for Extreme Environments will be established.
They will link with the existing Electrical Power Systems UTC at the University of Strathclyde to broaden the investigation of technologies and concepts that will lead to the “more-electric” ships and aircraft of tomorrow, gradually eliminate the heavy, complex systems of today and contribute to the realisation of future energy infrastructures.
These centres will also enable the exchange of skills and knowledge between the universities and Rolls-Royce and will provide new opportunities for training and staff development.
Rolls-Royce will provide industrial focus and support to academic research that will result in jointly-developed technologies for application in tomorrow's high-technology products.
This development will provide an exploitation route for innovative university research and will create an exciting environment for new entrants into engineering careers.
As part of this latest research collaboration, new academic chairs have been created at Sheffield and UMIST, with the help of funding secured by Rolls-Royce executives John Cheffins and Phil Ruffles as winners of the 2001 Francois Xavier Bagnoud Foundation annual prize for aerospace excellence for the Trent engine development. Further funding will come from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
“It is appropriate that money won for developing today's world-leading technologies represented by the Trent will be invested in strengthening the academic base for a new generation of technology advances. Electrical power systems will prove vital for both aerospace and a range of allied industries,” said Dr Mike Howse, Rolls-Royce Director - Engineering and Technology.
“We have selected three universities with a good range and mix of skills to target our future needs. I am looking forward to an excellent working relationship and anticipate the results will quickly show the value of this partnership.”
Professor Geof Tomlinson, University of Sheffield Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, said: “Our relationship with Rolls-Royce in our existing UTCs has been particularly happy and fruitful, and we're looking forward to working with the company and our partner universities on revolutionary propulsion technologies with huge potential for efficiency and environmental benefits.”
Professor Steve Williamson, Head of the Electrical Engineering and Electronics Department at UMIST, added: “Engineering at UMIST has a strong tradition of working closely with industry. We are thrilled at the prospect of further strengthening our industrial activities by working at the cutting edge of technology with one of the world's leading engineering and manufacturing companies.”
Professor Jim McDonald, Director of the UTC in Electrical Power Systems at the University of Strathclyde, commented: “The strategic relationship established with the company through the formation of the UTC in 1997 has contributed to the retention of good researchers and the advancement of electrical systems technologies. We welcome the opportunity to build upon the strong collaborative links already established with academic colleagues in the new UTCs and together we will support the company's drive to refine and adopt more-electric technologies.”
Rolls-Royce established its first UTC in 1990, launching a series of focused academic centres that study specific technical subjects under long-term rolling agreements and pursue dedicated research programmes that provide continuity and two-way benefits – to both company and academic community.
Studying a diversity of topics, from materials and transmission systems to vibration, noise and combustion technologies, more than 20 UTCs exist at present in the UK at 15 universities, and in the last year the first fully-fledged overseas UTCs have been established in Scandinavia, Germany and the United States.
The University of Sheffield already houses Rolls-Royce funded UTCs, UMIST will host its first with the latest partnership agreement, while the Strathclyde UTC was set up in 1997 to undertake targeted research primarily for the company's Energy business.
Details available from: Rolls-Royce plc. Tel: +44 (0) 1332 248917; Fax: +44 (0)1332 248972.