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University of Virginia School of Engineering Partners with Rolls-Royce to Boost Jet Engine Efficiency

1230 Days ago

UVA Engineering is one of only three North American members of Rolls-Royce’s global University Technology Center Network

Charlottesville, Va., Feb. 20, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The University of Virginia School of Engineering is at the forefront of developing a solution to make the world’s jet engines more efficient. A multidisciplinary team is seeking to identify and develop thermoelectric materials that can harness excess energy--and save millions of dollars in the process.

Patrick Hopkins, professor and a director of Ph.D. studies in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UVA, is leading the work. Hopkins is a mechanical engineer by trade as well as a specialist in microscale heat transfer and high-temperature materials science. He identified the potential of the voltage, which comes from a temperature change in the engines’ coating material, to provide that increased efficiency.

“We soon discovered that, if we produced a coating that could not only survive in the hot environment but also produce current, we could harvest electricity that is then used to support the aircraft,” said Hopkins.

“The efficiencies that come from harvesting even an incremental amount of energy can lead to millions of dollars in savings for our airline industry.”

Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of jet engines, has signed on as a critical partner in this endeavor. UVA is one of only three universities in North America that participate in the Rolls-Royce University Technology Center Network. Hopkins teamed up with Dr. Ann Bolcavage, a Rolls-Royce Engineering Associate Fellow in Coating Materials, to translate the idea to reality. The team went on to secure a nearly $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) program to explore his idea.

This NSF program, which focuses on promoting collaborations between academic research institutions and industry that enable technological breakthroughs and address critical needs, presents opportunities for companies to explore transformative ideas that they would not normally pursue.

“Exploring the energy savings potential of thermoelectric materials is the type of long-term basic research that companies like Rolls-Royce are interested in,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins and Bolcavage are setting out to design a material with poor thermal conductivity that creates this reserve of energy. In exploring thermal barrier coatings in great detail, they also hope to develop coatings that are less expensive to produce--another area of savings for the industry.

Through this work, Hopkins has built on his partnership with Rolls-Royce, recruiting new graduate students, expanding the number of funded projects, and emerging as the thermal transport experts for one of the world’s largest gas turbine engine companies.

Hopkins’ recent research on thermal properties of novel coatings is published in Advanced Materials. ​

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About UVA Engineering: As part of the top-ranked, comprehensive University of Virginia, UVA Engineering is one of the nation’s oldest and most respected engineering schools. Our mission is to make the world a better place by creating and disseminating knowledge and by preparing future engineering leaders. Outstanding students and faculty from around the world choose UVA Engineering because of our growing and internationally recognized education and research programs. UVA is the No. 1 public engineering school in the country for the percentage of women graduates, among schools with at least 75 degree earners; the No. 1 public engineering school in the United States for the four-year graduation rate of undergraduates students; and the top engineering school in the country for the rate of Ph.D. enrollment growth. Learn more at engineering.virginia.edu .

Wende Hope
University of Virginia School of Engineering

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