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Climate-neutral aircraft will be built by today’s students

Why are young innovators vital to the success of Clean Sky?

Young people will be the ones who eventually transform aviation and make it 100% climate neutral. At Clean Sky, we are paving the way towards climate-neutral flight at an ambitious rate, and today’s students – tomorrow’s engineers – will be a vital part of that journey. 

Our university partners are a constant source of bright ideas and inspiration along the road to clean aviation. This generation is more environmentally-conscious than perhaps any before, and they are determined to deliver a future that is both green and prosperous. 

Writing in Clean Sky’s Skyline magazine last year, the European Association of Aviation Students said: “Only if we manage to assure sustainable growth, aviation can further improve our lives and connect more people.” 

To harness this font of creativity and innovation, our Clean Sky Academy is working to forge stronger links with our academic partners and is striving to engage young academics and budding engineers in our activities. 

Young people will be the ones who eventually transform aviation

How can young aviation students get involved in Clean Sky initiatives? 

Every year, Clean Sky hosts the Best PhD Award, which recognises outstanding work by PhD researchers that has the potential to “move the needle” towards green aviation. For more information on how to apply to the 2021 edition, stay tuned to our website, follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter as we will be posting details in due course. 

In 2020, first prize for Clean Sky’s Best PhD Award went to Dr Hossein Balaghi Enalou from the University of Nottingham. Dr Enalou’s work on “Electric Power Transfer Concept for Improved Performance of Multi-spool Turbofan Jet Engine” has established an “electrical bridge” to circulate the desired amount of power between engine shafts, in order to decouple their speeds. 

He also developed a nonlinear modular engine model to study the impact of the Electric Power Transfer (EPT) on the engine performance. His work improved the engine performance significantly, resulting in a fuel consumption reduction of up to 2% and surge margin increase up to 5%. It’s results like these that drive us ever closer to our goal of climate neutrality in aviation, and Dr Enalou’s work is an inspiration for other young researchers in universities across Europe. 

The Best PhD Award is part of the Clean Sky Academy initiative, which is spearheaded by my colleague Dr Jean-Francois Broukaert. The Academy aims to encourage young engineers and innovators to come up with solutions to the challenges of sustainable aviation. Speaking at the Best PhD Award prize-giving ceremony in October 2020, Dr Joris Melkert of TU Delft emphasised the importance of the Clean Sky Academy to stimulate young engineers. “If we do not invest in our young innovators right now, we will have a problem in the future,” he said.

The Best PhD Award recognised outstanding work by PhD researchers that has the potential to “move the needle” towards green aviation

How are universities involved in Clean Sky? And what benefits does university involvement in Clean Sky initiatives bring? 

The innovative work carried out by our university partners ranges from tackling the complex aerodynamics of rotorcraft to developing eco-friendly joints for the airplanes of the future. The advantage of working with university researchers is that you can be sure that the technology they are developing is at the cusp of cutting-edge innovation. Our industry and SME partners benefit from engaging with the academic participants because of their in-depth knowledge of the latest research findings. Academics and students can apply a new technique or technology to an old problem with game-changing results. 

Another example of how young innovators can contribute to the Clean Sky programme is by taking part in or coordinating various Clean Sky projects. One example of this is DevTMF (Development of Experimental Techniques and Predictive Tools to Characterise Thermo-Mechanical Fatigue Behaviour and Damage Mechanisms). Coordinated by Linköping University, with the participation of Swansea University and The University of Nottingham, the project is on a mission to put European aeroengine manufacturing at the forefront by improving the industry’s ability to predict the behaviour of materials under extreme and variable conditions. “Improving gas turbine efficiency necessitates weight reductions or increases in temperature. Either way, materials are key,” says Svjetlana Stekovic, Senior Researcher and EU Senior Research Officer at Linköping University (LiU). By the end of the project existing individual aero engine components will be improved, enabling the reduction of fuel consumption by allowing them to run at higher temperatures and pressures, thereby increasing engine efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions without the need for hardware modifications. Read more about DevTMF and other Clean Sky projects being carried out by university partners in this edition of Skyline magazine.

How can young innovators benefit from getting involved in Clean Sky initiatives?

A driving force behind the success of the universities within Clean Sky’s programme is the collaborative approach championed by Clean Sky. This enables innovators from different backgrounds to learn from each other and work together to solve the technological challenges involved in building new climate-neutral aircraft. 

“The aviation community is a close family, and Clean Sky provides a great platform to bring students and researchers on board,” said Prof. Andreas Strohmayer, the Head of the Department of Aircraft Design, University of Stuttgart and Chairman of the European Aeronautical Sciences Network (EASN). Clean Sky’s community gives young researchers a chance to build up their networks by working on Clean Sky projects with industrial heavyweights and innovative SMEs, which can prove important as they take their first steps on the career ladder. Clean Sky also provides young talent with the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects with real-world demand, and to stretch their imaginations to find innovative ways to make climate-neutral aviation a reality. Last but not least, young innovators have the chance to be part of aviation history – they can revolutionise the sector to produce cleaner, greener aircraft.

Climate-neutral aircraft will be built by today’s students