The Universities of Nottingham and Oxford, along with Imperial College London have each had research partnerships with Rolls-Royce plc for over 20 years. Collectively, these Universities have brought a depth of understanding about many aspects of gas turbine engines including the behaviour of highly-loaded contacts, the operation of bearings, rotor vibration and the control of this, wear, fretting-fatigue, thermal management and interactions between the air and bladed structures within the engine that can occasionally lead to high vibrations and poor performance if not well understood. The CORNERSTONE project provides these Universities with the opportunity to bring together the extensive developments of the past and to formulate them such that they are ready for accurate and effective deployment in new machine designs.
CORNERSTONE is made especially important by the fact that aero-engine designs are presently going through a period of more radical change than they have done for at least 50 years. Strict targets for improved efficiency, reduced noise and lower weight were already driving changes to engine architecture to new and unfamiliar configurations. The benefits of increasing extents of electrification and the expansion of the aerospace market into unmanned vehicles and vehicles for private use provide further strong motivations for embracing system designs not previously contemplated. This venturing into previously unexplored design spaces requires that the “design-by-evolution” process traditionally adopted by all of the aero-propulsion companies must be replaced with a “design-by-revolution” approach where fundamental engineering science underpins the decisions being made rather than extrapolations from what has worked well in the past.