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What will the aircraft engines and materials of 2050 be like? Are piston engines returning to aviation?

I think we will hear the term composite-cycle engine much more in the coming days. This engine type, which companies have put on their agenda to reduce fossil fuel use and therefore carbon dioxide emissions, may take its place in passenger aircraft by 2050.

Composite-cycle engine drawing. In this engine, the classic turbo fan engine and the piston engine are combined.

*Taken from the ULTIMATE project website.

The ULTIMATE (Ultra Low emission Technology Innovations for Mid-century Aircraft Turbine Engines) project, supported within the scope of the European Union Horizon 2020 framework program, started in 2015, as its name suggests, to develop ultra-low emission aviation engines for the mid-century.

Bauhaus Luftfahrt , one of the parties to this project, published the first output of the project in 2018. Above you can see a drawing of this engine. Since I am not an engine expert, I do not have the opportunity to explain it in detail, but in summary, I can say that the old piston aircraft engine concept has been adapted to new technology engines. In this design, the piston engine rotates the high-pressure compressor just in front of the combustion chamber. When the piston engine takes over this task, the high pressure compressor is removed from the system. The rest is a classic Geared Turbofan ™ (GTF) engine.

Bu değişiklikler motorun 50 cm civarında kısalmasına, ağırlığının 7400 kg'dan 6000 kg 'a (%18,5) düşmesine ve yakıt tüketiminin de 2000'li yılların motorlarına göre %52 azalmasına imkan tanıyor. 

Considering that today's engines will reduce fuel consumption by 2050, these engines will be around 11% efficient in 2050.

MTU Aero Engines , another partner of the same project, introduced another piston composite cycle engine (CCE) on its YouTube account on June 4, 2020. However, there is no explanation yet other than this video. As can be seen from the video, this time a free -piston engine is mounted on the GTF. There is no crank in this design.

Yes, after explaining the new developments in engine technology, I can delve into the material engineering side of the subject. These two new designs reintroduce parts such as cranks, piston rods and pistons into airline aircraft engines.

Günümüzün pistonlu hafif uçak motorlarında kullanılan malzemeler orta-büyük gövdeli hava yolu uçaklarına ait turbo fan motorlarının ihtiyaçlarını karşılayabilecek mi?
Piston engine produced for light aircraft.

* Continental TSIOF-550 Piston Engine

Today, in this type of engines, the pistons are made of forged aluminum alloys (4032), and the cranks are made of forged medium alloy tempered or nitrided steels (such as 1.8550). They gain surface hardness by nitriding after core hardening .


Let's see what the material selections will be in these new generation engines. Will another metal group appear before us by 2050, which can be an alternative to the superalloys , titanium alloys and precipitation-hardening stainless steels that enable turbofan engines to come to these days ?

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