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Rolls-Royce Has Debuted the Most Colossal Engine Testbed on Earth

Rolls-Royce's gigantic Testbed 80 can sense up to 200,000 subtle vibrations per second.

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.

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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 Engine
Testbed 80 can collect snippets of data from more than 10,000 distinct parameters per engine. Source: Rolls-Royce plc / Flickr

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.

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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.

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