Engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce is a partner in the Cambridge-MIT Institute’s ‘Silent Aircraft’ Initiative. This is a unique three-year project, bringing together researchers from Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with industrial partners, to produce the novel design for a passenger aircraft that will be radically quieter than today’s airplanes.

Engine noise is an increasingly acute environmental problem for the civil aviation industry in the UK. As part of its work on the project, Rolls-Royce is currently hosting researchers from Cambridge at its site in Derby, where its civil aerospace business is based. The Cambridge researchers — who earlier this year attended a Rolls-Royce ‘noise appreciation’ course to improve their understanding — are now working alongside Rolls-Royce graduate trainees. Both are learning how to use GENESIS, a highly sophisticated, multi-million pound design software tool developed by Rolls-Royce. They are hoping it will help them test out potential designs and technologies for a next-generation engine that will be much quieter during take-off and yet highly fuel-efficient when the aircraft is cruising at high altitude.

Senior project engineer Joe Walsh, who works in the Noise Engineering department at Rolls-Royce, says “We use tools like GENESIS to carry out the preliminary design assessment of new engines, and it contains much of the knowledge we have built up. It helps us to evaluate what the performance, weight and noise characteristics of an engine will be.

Chez Hall, Cambridge University research associate, says: “It’s going to help us explore potential designs for new engines. The Silent Aircraft engine is likely to need a completely new design. Because of this, and because we are really pushing the boundaries and coming up with some bold ideas, we were concerned about how applicable current software, like GENESIS, would be in helping us. But we have been really impressed with it so far.”

In a radical departure from current configurations, it has been decided that in the design for the Silent Aircraft, the engines will not hang below the wings. Nor will they sit in a pod above the rear of the plane — another potential design option. The project team has decided that the engines will be embedded into the body of the aircraft itself to help minimise the engine noise transmitted to the ground.

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