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Rolls-Royce and Purdue University representatives have agreed to a new research agreement for propulsion advances. From left to right are Dan Hasler, President, Purdue Research Foundation; Dennis Warner, President, Rolls-Royce Controls and Data Services; Phil Burkholder, President of Defense Aerospace, Rolls-Royce North America; and Suresh Garimela, EVP for Research and Partnerships, Purdue University.

Rolls-Royce, Purdue partner on jet engine design

Rolls-Royce and Purdue University have formed a $33 million jet-engine research and development program to create next-generation aircraft propulsion systems.

“Research and development in jet engines is an important objective for Rolls-Royce as we strive to create jet engines that are more energy-efficient and can perform more effectively,” said Phil Burkholder, President of Rolls-Royce Defense Aerospace, North America. “I am confident that our collaborative research [with Purdue] will result in strong long-term advances in jet engine development.”

Rolls-Royce is designating Purdue as a University Technology Partnership (UTP), which will initially encompass two research centers in the areas of advanced thermal management systems and advanced compressor systems, expanding beyond the current University Technology Center (UTC) designation. The first Rolls-Royce UTC established outside of Europe was launched at Purdue in 2003 to study high-Mach propulsion, and that program is transitioning into a focus on systems for advanced thermal management. Purdue has thus received the first UTP designation in the U.S.

“The added signature initiative to advance aerothermal processes in compressors will make Purdue the first university outside of Europe to have two such research centers,” said Dan Hirleman, Purdue’s Chief Corporate and Global Partnerships Officer. “The investment by Rolls-Royce will further support Purdue’s Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, the nation's largest university-based propulsion laboratory.”

In early 2015 Purdue announced that Lilly Endowment had provided $5 million to expand Zucrow as part of a $40 million grant to the university to support five transformational projects in the colleges of engineering and technology, as well as Purdue Libraries. The grant was the largest cash donation given in Purdue's history.

The new partnership with Rolls-Royce is a reflection of Purdue’s commitment to leveraging the Lilly Endowment grant to bolster research and education in engineering and technology, in particular research and development in thermal management for advanced propulsion systems, compressor and turbine technology, and analytical methods.

“This work will have an important impact on the industry,” said Nicole Key, an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “We know we are impacting future engine designs and yet we are able to simultaneously investigate many fundamental questions into the science and engineering of propulsion.”

The Zucrow Laboratories, Purdue University Airport, and Purdue Aviation (formerly Lafayette Aviation) are located within the 980-acre Purdue Research Park Aerospace District. In 2015, Rolls-Royce announced its move into a research and technology lab in the district’s first building, a 40,000-ft² facility. The Purdue Research Park Aerospace District is owned and managed by the Purdue Research Foundation.

In speaking about the new partnership with Rolls-Royce, “There is no more fitting or prestigious first step for the university’s Aerospace District, which we imagine is a big piece of Purdue’s future,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels.

Rolls-Royce, which employs nearly 600 Purdue alumni, also operates an advanced aerospace technology research and design unit in Indianapolis, which is known as LibertyWorks.

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