General Electric and Honeywell will help NASA develop turbofan engine technologies as part of a research project to potentially increase the energy efficiency of core power systems for commercial transport and hybrid-electric aircraft.
The agency said Friday it entered into separate agreements with the two companies to explore power extraction approaches for the Hybrid Thermally Efficient Core initiative, which calls for the development of high-bypass-ratio engines that boost airflow and fuel economy.
Tony Nerone, HyTEC project manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, noted that current engines are capable of extracting 5 percent of power and that the extraction rate should increase to as high as 20 percent in order to support electric platforms.
“As aircraft become more electric, we’ll need to address the traditional power needs – running subsystems like flight controls, air conditioning, and so on – but we also need to tap more power for the newer electric systems that we’ll be adding to the aircraft," Nerone added.
Under a Space Act Agreement, NASA and Honeywell will aim to demonstrate a low-pressure turbine, develop computational predictive models and drive technology development work that could support the company's gas turbine portfolio.
The NASA-GE contract looks to integrate electric generators and motors in an effort to address commercial engine power extraction, operability, efficiency, durability challenges.
Barbara Esker, deputy program director of the agency's Advanced Air Vehicles Program, said that engines developed through the HyTEC partnerships can be integrated with megawatt-class electrified aircraft propulsion components.
NASA's Aeronautics Systems Analysis Branch is developing the Single-aisle Turboelectric Aircraft with Aft Boundary-Layer Propulsion, a commercial transport system concept that employs onboard gas turbine-powered motors.