Researching the Impact of Environmental Contaminants on Aircraft Engines

A joint research project between Pratt & Whitney and Virginia Tech will help further understanding of airborne particles - a key contributor to engine degradation


Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce have signed a joint agreement with Virginia Tech for pre-competitive research focusing around the impact of environmental contaminants on aeroengine operation and testing.

The four-year project will leverage Virginia Tech’s research and cross-discipline expertise on engine operation, instrumentation, and geosciences as well as the current research relationships that both Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce have with the university.

The research project continues a longstanding relationship between Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney, with the two companies previously partnering on several government-based research projects, including a study focused on volcanic ash damage to aircraft engines.

The collaboration between Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and Virginia Tech is designed to add the more complicated engine testing available at Virginia Tech to further develop mitigation strategies, and to provide information back to more basic research activities from actual engine operations.

Frank Preli, Vice President, Propulsion and Materials Technologies at Pratt & Whitney, said: “Pratt & Whitney sees this as a great opportunity to improve our basic understanding of an issue that is critically important to our entire industry. Virginia Tech has the right expertise and facilities to help us make an impact as the joint research team will investigate the fundamentals of particle [sand/dust] properties as the particles pass through the engine, with the goal of improving analysis methods to better predict those effects.”

Lisa Teague, Head of Emerging Technologies and Innovation at Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks, commented: “Rolls-Royce has enjoyed a strong relationship with Virginia Tech for decades, collaborating on a variety of research projects to measure and evaluate engine performance under different conditions. This new joint research project will help further industry understanding of airborne particles – a key contributor to engine degradation – and their impact on operability.”

The short-term aim for the work is to leverage learning from smaller engine tests which will be performed on a Rolls-Royce M250 engine, to influence large engine test programs by accounting for the difference in engine architecture and operating conditions. Pratt & Whitney believe the project will have a direct impact on testing methodology and capabilities for both companies and meets the needs of its government customers.

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