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GE Aviation is introducing durable, lightweight composite components into the “hot section” of a flying jet engine. The GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team’s F136 development engine for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) contains third-stage, low-pressure turbine vanes made by GE from ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). This could lead to the first commercial use of CMCs in a jet engine’s hot section (combustor and turbine areas) when a F136-powered JSF begins flight testing in 2010.
CMC development is a key initiative at GE Aviation and an enabling technology in several of GE’s private and government-funded engine demonstrator programs now underway. CMC components are also a key feature of GE’s eCore program, the cornerstone for the company’s next-generation jet engines for narrow-body, regional and business jets.
CMCs are made of silicon carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic resin manufactured through a highly sophisticated process and further enhanced with proprietary coatings. They are highly desirable for jet engine components for two main reasons: they are lightweight (one-third the density of metal for better fuel efficiency) and they are durable and more heat-resistant than metals (requiring less cooling air and thereby improving overall engine efficiency).
“Developing new jet engine materials takes many years of investment and commitment,” said Robert Schafrik, GE Aviation’s general manager of materials and process engineering. “But the benefits can provide a considerable competitive advantage. CMCs are a new frontier that will raise the bar in jet engine performance.”
For more information, visit www.ge.com/aviation.