General Electric Turns to Ceramics For More Efficient Jet Engine

Ceramic Matrix Composite [CMC] Material, Takes the Heat in a Jet Engine Core
Ceramic Matrix Composite [CMC] Material, Takes the Heat in a Jet Engine Core
Jet engines run at the very edge of thermal meltdown, but General Electric is turning to ceramics to turn up the heat and make a more efficient jet engine. Jet fuel burns much hotter than even the toughest alloys, so air injected into the core cools things off. This keeps the engine from melting, but also makes it inefficient.

On the other hand, the hotter the engine core, the more efficient the engine is. General Electric Aviation’s Rick Albrecht notes, “It’s pure thermodynamics.” Albrecht is a manager for the advanced military systems division, and turning up the heat has been impossible until now. By looking into new materials, General Electric is able to squeeze more power out of a more efficient jet engine.

In order to cool off a typical jet engine core, air ducts keep temperatures under the critical threshold, but this also makes the engine inefficient. Ceramic Matrix Composites [CMC] are lightweight and heat resistant, maintaining their strength at temperatures up to 2,400°F, far above even advanced high-temperature alloys. General Electric’s CMC jet engine is more efficient by 25% and delivers up to 10% more thrust.

For now, these jet engines are being developed for fighter jets, which would benefit from increased power output and range. The same technology though, could be used to decrease the carbon footprint of the passenger airline fleet. A passenger airline using more efficient jet engines would require less fuel weight for the same range, a double benefit in efficiency and decrease in carbon dioxide emissions

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