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Inspiring peopleHervé Morvan

Letting my imagination fly
Member of Aerospace and Transport Technologies
Professor Hervé Morvan
How would you explain your research?

We specifically look at how air and oil flow through the transmissions and core of an aeroengine, from the bearings and injectors, through the gears, onto the engine walls and into the sump, ensuring they are all properly lubricated and cooled.

This is particularly important because these transmission elements are placed under a lot of duress in a bid to derive maximum performance from the engine cycle. Temperatures, pressures and engine speeds are getting far greater and service intervals longer.

If you look at the way engines have been designed over the past 30-40 plus years,  it has very much been reliant on inherited methods and knowledge, what you could call "pedigree" and a strong element of testing. Now the emphasis is on trying to design things right first time using numerical tools.

I work on those computer simulations, providing analysis that can ultimately reduce the number of design iterations, to accelerate the time to production and reduce cost.

When you’re trying to push the envelope, with ever greater efficiency levels and onto new architectures, simulation can offer key insights. 

When I was in high school I wanted to become a fighter pilot
What inspired you to pursue this area?

When I was in high school I wanted to become a fighter pilot or an air engine mechanic and I used to build model aircraft as a teenager. As I was too young I would have needed my parents’ approval to join the French Air Force mechanics school… That didn’t happen!

In reality I’m not sure I would have made the best pilot. I have sat in a Mirage jet not that long ago and it’s extremely claustrophobic – the cockpit is very small. I’m definitely better off designing aircraft instead.

I still go to air shows in my spare time and I have stacks of comic books about airplanes at home and in my office; aerospace is a childhood passion that has stayed with me and makes coming to work great fun.

Working with Rolls-Royce, in particular at this point in time when we are looking at new engine architectures such as UltraFan™ is very exciting. With the rise in air travel, we are entering an era not seen since the era of Concorde and seeing, in my area, progress made in two-phase flow simulation applied to engines to the point that Rolls-Royce are now starting to use CFD for design and influencing the UltraFan™ programme are very rewarding. Beyond my sole area of research, sketching ideas for future propulsion systems with electrical colleagues is also great fun.

What do you predict the next big innovation will be in this field?

Electrification of aircraft and engines is a real prospect for short-haul journeys the near future; hybridisation probably for longer haul. If you’ve been to Farnborough or the Paris air show recently you will have seen the airbus E-fan fly which is an all-electric aircraft. At the moment it has a 50-minute flight capacity. For long haul aircraft, it is difficult to imagine what is going to replace Jet A fuel at present; it’s extremely dense energy source – its stable, and offers the prospect of flying for many hours in conventional engines. Still, research on this is taking place, including at Nottingham with a steer and participation from the IAT. We will see step changes inside long haul engines but on the whole the engine philosophy may not change radically yet. 

What has been the greatest moment of your career so far?

I was lucky to work with Speedo on their 2008 Beijing Olympics campaign with the launch of the LZR Racer swim suit that improved the aerodynamics of the gold-medal winning British swim team. I did a lot of simulation for them, modelling what famous swimmers would look like in different positions in the water. My work helped illustrate how the LZR suit worked for the media and to communicate with athletes, coaches and the design team that wasn’t fluent in fluid mechanics. It gave me quite a lot of exposure – and was the one time my mum told me she understood what I did for a living.

Seeing some of our work also find its way as a solution for the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB97k in 2013 was also a real moment of joy.

What or who has helped to get you where you are today?

I had a Royal Academy of Engineering Fellowship to work at Rolls Royce back in 2008-2009 and the global chief of fluid systems at the time, John Mylemans, impressed me a lot. He’s now retired, but was a fantastic individual to work for.  I also have a mentor at Rolls-Royce, in a senior technology role, with whom I have some of my best meetings –I often come home ready for bed after those, but the intellectual stimulus is fantastic.

I am quite driven and know where I want things to go; for the group, the institute, the RPA and team Nottingham. I can get frustrated when things do not happen at the pace I would like them to unfold at  but it’s very much fuelled by the ambition to achieve something as a collective and for Nottingham, with a shared vision. I am always looking for the next challenge and how to take people on that journey. I have a zillion ideas and it’s not possible to explore and deliver on all of those, but better to have many than to be a ‘quiet bunny’. 

With the rise in air travel, we are entering an era not seen since Concorde
Who would you most like to meet in your field?

Clarence “Kelly” Johnson who worked for global aerospace company, Lockheed Martin and founded Skunk Works, which designs famous aircraft such as the SR-71 Blackbird used by the US Air Force.

I also have a lot of time for the people behind Concorde. I know it’s not green and was not an economic success, but as an engineer it’s a very exciting machine. Concorde is an iconic, a Mach2-capable 100-seater aircraft – come on, that has to be exciting!

Right now, the guys at Reaction Engines Ltd are keeping me smiling too with a Mach-5 air breathing engine to go into space…

What research other than your own really excites you?

In the past if you wanted to go into space, you needed a big rocket, lots of oxidants to be stored, usually in a liquid form in a big tube and you burnt that. Future-facing British company, Reaction Engines Ltd has proposed a concept engine – the SABRE engine - with the hybrid architecture of a regular engine and a rocket engine underpinned by a heat exchanger to propel their Skylon space vehicle. It uses what air there is in the atmosphere so their craft won’t need to carry too much of it. The resultant vehicle could go into space multiple times and would look more like a normal aircraft. BAE Systems recently bought 20 per cent of their shares so the dream might become a reality.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Make the most of any opportunity that is given to you. In a university, opportunities exist for initiative-takers, so go after things and make a difference; people will notice and you will go places. I have learnt from Rolls-Royce that as long as you deliver and can be trusted, your ideas can have a real future and make a difference.

Be flexible and adaptable, too. I wasn’t necessarily dead-set on solving a particular fluids problem when I arrived at Nottingham (I started on hydraulics in Civil Engineering!); I had fluid skills; I was very interested in aerospace; in energy and I made these skills available to the sectors, delivered for people, proved myself in the process I think and it has paid back. 

Global Research Theme
Transformative Technologies

Research Priority Area
Aerospace and Transport Technologies

Read Hervé's full profile

Hervé Morvan is the Director of the Institute for Aerospace Technology and Professor in Applied Fluid Mechanics in the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering. Professor Morvan’s main industrial association has been with Rolls-Royce, in particular its Thermo-Fluid Systems Group and Transmission and Drives Supply Chain Unit. He is the head of the Gas Turbine and Transmissions Research Centre, home to the Rolls-Royce Transmission University Training Centre. Herve is also a member of the Aerospace Technology Institute’s Special Advisory Group on propulsion and a director and board member for the Midlands Aerospace Alliance.


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