Purdue, Rolls-Royce, state launch $24M partnership to advance aircraft engines

The state of Indiana, Rolls-Royce and Purdue University on Monday morning announced a $24 million partnership to advance research and development for next-generation gas turbine technology.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. said the partnership will create the nation's most advanced turbine lab for compact gas engines. It will be housed at Purdue and will be used by Rolls-Royce as well as by U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Air Force and NASA. Research will focus in part on reducing polution and improving fuel efficiency.

The state will provide $6 million of the project's cost through its 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. Purdue is contributing $8 million, and the remaining $10 million will come from Rolls-Royce.

This is the latest big Indiana investment by Rolls-Royce. The engine maker, which employs more than 4,000 workers in central Indiana, is in the midst of a  $400 million effort to update its Tibbs Avenue and Raymond Street plants while continuing uninterrupted production of high-precision engines for military aircraft. It also has committed another $200 million to technology research.

“Working together with the state of Indiana and Purdue University, we are strengthening the state’s aerospace industry,” Marion Blakey, CEO of Rolls-Royce North America, said in a statement. He said the partnership will help ensure "that Indiana remains a leader in the aerospace industry for decades to come.”

The partnership will operate out of Purdue’s Zucrow Laboratories, one of the nation's largest university propulsion laboratories, and will focus on next-generation turbine airfoils. Turbine airfoils extract energy from the high-temperature, high-pressure air produced by the engine’s combustor. Operating in the hottest part of the engine, in temperatures that are far greater than the melting point of metals, the airfoils must be engineered to provide optimum performance in this extreme environment.

Purdue researchers and students plan to begin collaborating on the program in August.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and officials from Rolls-Royce and Purdue announced the partnership from the Paris Air Show. The governor began a European trade mission last week that will wrap up Tuesday. The delegation of state officials, economic development officials and business leaders has made a series of stops in Hungary and France.

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