Air traffic is projected to grow worldwide by 5% each year in the near future. Thus, the ACARE Flightpath 2050 emission targets seek reductions in CO2 by 75%, NOx and particulates by 90%, and noise by 65% compared to the year 2000 status. Continued incremental improvements of the conventional ‘tube and wing’ aircraft configuration will not be sufficient to meet these targets. Distributed Propulsion (DP) is a breakthrough system-level approach, offering significant benefits for fuel efficiency, which relate directly to reduce emissions. Further, DP opens the aircraft design space (see picture below) and will allow the positioning and design of aircraft propulsive systems to minimise noise impact on the ground. Electrical power transmission from gas-turbine powered generators, fuel cells or batteries will offer the most flexible solution and allow the full potential of DP to be exploited.

image source: Rolls-Royce

While significantly improving the aerodynamic and propulsive efficiency, additional components and conversion processes in the power train will lead to increased equipment weight and energy losses. To realise net overall gains, the DP equipment must be low weight and highly efficient. At the high power levels (1 to 5 MW/motor) required for large aircraft propulsion (A320, A350 etc.), superconducting technology in generators, motors and transmission is therefore seen as a major enabler for DP. In particular, significant progress is required in the machine’s electrical efficiency and power density.

Main objective of ASuMED is to develop a fully superconducting motor prototype with the power densities and efficiency needed for hybrid-electric distributed propulsion (HEDP) of future large civil aircrafts, as an enabler to achieve the targets of Flightpath 2050, mentioned above.

Main economic and societal impacts of the project::

  • As an essential enabler for DP based aircrafts, the application of the ASuMED developments will lead to a substantial decrease of the environmental impact of air vehicles, i.e. potential reductions of noise by 71db, NOx by 75% and fuel burn by 70% (compared to the year 2000 base case).
  • The competitiveness of the European aviation industry will be strengthened by new market opportunities. In particular, electric DP can be considered as a disruptive technology, which has the potential to completely change existing industrial value chains by displacing established market leaders. Thus, an early leadership of European companies is necessary to develop new products, services and solutions resulting in a massive economic growth in the European aviation industry.
  • Highest efficiency of the new systems reduces fuel consumption and may enable longer flight ranges or different mission profiles for the aircraft operators.
  • The project’s results can be applied in further markets, e.g. wind turbines, transportation (rail and large scale shipping), new torque motors for industrial drives etc.