Rolls-Royce set the inaugural test run of a new Trent XWB engine — the largest engine testbed on Earth — in motion this week, according to a blog post shared on the company's official website.
Rolls-Royce debuts largest engine testbed on Earth
The new Rolls-Royce engine has undergone development for three years, within the roughly $122-million facility — itself inside the Rolls-Royce Deby test center. The facility has an internal area of 80,730 ft² (7,500 m²) — and was created to accommodate Rolls engines of present and future endeavors, including the next-gen UltraFan demonstrator.
The recent inaugural test pushed the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB to its limits on the colossal rig. "Today is an important landmark in our journey towards a more sustainable future for aerospace and aviation," said Rolls-Royce Aerospace President Chris Cholerton.
"Testbed 80 will not only test engines such as the Trent XWB — the world's most efficient aero-engine in service — but also the engines and propulsion systems of the future, which will see us take another step towards decarbonization. It's great that the first engine test has been a success and we are looking forward to the official opening of the facility in the coming months."
Rolls-Royce Testbed 80 senses 200,000 vibrations per second
Testbed 80 can gather data from more than 10,000 different parameters on an engine, according to the Rolls-Royce blog post. It uses a vast web of sensors capable of detecting subtle vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples, every second.
It's dizzying to imagine memorizing that many images per second.
Testbed 80 to explore new blends of sustainable fuels
Rolls-Royce will also use its testbed to further analyze the performance of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), which are synthetic alternatives to petroleum-derived hydrocarbons. The company also said SAFs may already function as "drop-in" fuels for engines in current use.
Testbed 80's roughly 37,000-gallon (140,000-liter) tank is capable of holding several kinds of fuel — including SAFs. This means it can and will see use exploring varying blends as part of Rolls-Royce's larger strategy for decarbonization. As more legacy-level engine-, aerospace, and automakers commit substantial resources into sustainable means of propulsion and transportation, the old stereotype that only gasoline and other ecologically-questionable fuels can deliver serious power will no longer tread water.