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Home/Insights/Advanced Thermal Systems Technology for Aero Engines

Advanced Thermal Systems Technology

Research Project History

The UHBR thermals research initiative is a direct descendant of two other partner funded programmes DBAHx (diffusion bonded aero heat exchangers) and NIPSE (novel integration of powerplant system equipment). All these programmes have the same aim. To develop innovative new technologies that will enable the design of increasingly lighter, more compact thermal management solutions to maximise aero engine performance.

We are now in the third phase of developing our thermal management technologies. “In terms of technology readiness the UHBR programme will elevate our heat exchanger development programme to level 6. That means that we are at a stage where we can demonstrate the technology and that we are moving ever closer to commercialisation of next generation product,” explains Phil Walsh, Director of Technology.

What are the challenges for heat exchanger technology?

Tomorrow’s jet engines will run hotter than ever. Fans are getting bigger and space inside the nacelle is increasingly at a premium. Space and weight savings are becoming critical design criteria.

In the DBAHx project we benchmarked tried and tested Meggitt heat exchanger technology, developed by Heatric, and currently employed in the oil and gas sector. We  wanted to see how we could apply these advanced solutions to aerospace. This resulted in  the development of our diffusion bonded etched plate technology.

Basically, to maximise heat transfer at very high temperatures, we chemically-etch channels with highly complex geometries onto individual  metal plates, which are then laminated together using diffusion bonding. We worked closely with The Welding Institute (TWI) to develop diffusion bonding capabilities. A prototype diffusion bonded etched plate heat exchanger has been manufactured, and is being tested to carry out final proving of the bonding strength; it’s a pivotal moment in the project.

This new concept of fuel-oil heat exchanger offers potential for step change improvements in component weight and volume and demonstrates the  capability for Meggitt products to operate at extreme fuel pressures.

“Unlike traditional plate-and-fin and shell-and-tube exchangers, our laminated heat exchanger design  can be formed into more complex 3D shapes, making the best use of available space,” explains Phil. “It also facilitates the factoring in of apertures for pipework from other equipment. Due to the innovative  design it even allows you to integrate other functions within a single component.”

Introducing  step-change technology is a vital part of our future strategy, developing individual components so that we can integrate them into Meggitt mini systems which are specifically designed to improve overall product performance.


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