The emissions mission
The European Union funded Clean Sky 2 programme is one of the largest ever dedicated to reducing aircraft emissions – and the University of Nottingham is one of its key higher education partners, delivering 26 research projects worth over €50 million.
The Institute for Aerospace Technology (IAT) is the place where we pull together over 50 academic experts and over 300 researchers to address the challenges of aviation. We work with industry to turn the results into real technology that can be deployed in the aircraft of the future.
The accelerating climate emergency makes it all the more crucial that our research work translates into tangible benefits to reduce emissions. Through our projects, we have developed:
- new insights into power electronics, motors and drives, paving the way for the electric revolution in car travel to be replicated in the sky;
- new technologies to better understand what happens inside aircraft gearboxes, potentially allowing for new designs that use less oil and burn less fuel;
- new high-tech advances in manufacturing to reduce the waste generated when building aircraft wings, saving both energy and valuable component materials;
- new ways of identifying design weaknesses in aircraft even before manufacturing has begun, meaning that industry will only need to move to testing when they are confident that the part will not fail. Less testing means less waste and less time, so that the public can fly on these greener aircraft sooner.
All the above topics are ultimately about reducing the weight and increasing the safety and performance of the aircraft. Every kg of weight we put on an aircraft is another kg to carry, another 5kg of fuel to burn to keep the aircraft in the air and propel it to its destination, and another kg of fuel to carry to the airport. Ultimately, this means more CO2 pumped into the atmosphere. Similarly, every ounce of performance we can get out of aircraft technology means planes can go further while burning less fuel and with less environmental impact.
"Every ounce of performance we can get out of aircraft technology means planes can go further while burning less fuel and with less environmental impact."
Our work on Clean Sky 2, a programme in which we have the fourth highest budget of all participants, has led to developing working relationships with all the major companies in Europe, who will take the technology we develop and put it to good use on new aeroplanes and helicopters.
The above projects are just a few examples that demonstrate the breadth of research at Nottingham. The work being undertaken is transforming the aircraft of tomorrow to be cleaner, leaner and greener.
Dr Hitendra Hirani is EU Programme Manager at the University of Nottingham’s Institute of Aerospace Technology.