Research & Innovation
Innovation is an integral part of Safran Aircraft Engines's business as an aero-engine manufacturer. We invest heavily in innovation across the board to give our customers the highest-performance propulsion solutions on the market. Our 2,600 R,T&D experts constantly strive to develop engines that leverage innovation to enhance their performance, cost-effectiveness and environmental-friendliness. We share these goals with aircraft manufacturers and the airlines, armed forces and bizjet operators that use our engines, to continuously improve today's products and design tomorrow's.
Creating value through technological innovation
Innovation is an integral part of Safran Aircraft Engines's corporate strategy. Our teams focus on different areas of research to develop the technological foundations behind aircraft engine performance. This effort addresses all key engine aspects: fans, high- and low-pressure compressors and turbines, combustors, design and integration, metallic and composite materials. The successful integration of these new technologies ensures that we can successfully manage the risks associated with innovation. Safran Aircraft Engines's ability to invent breakthrough or even disruptive products gives our customers a decisive advantage and long-term value in the booming aviation market. As one of the key contributors to this growth, Safran Aircraft Engines gives customers the benefits of our skills and expertise, including design departments that tackle the latest technologies, proven methodologies, networks of experts and more. We also protect this vital knowledge capital by applying a proactive, responsible intellectual property policy. With a portfolio of more than 16,000 patents and 450 new applications a year, we clearly demonstrate our ability to come up with technological innovations that will shape the future.
Research and Innovation
Research and innovation are essential to our long-term development, and at the heart of the corporate strategy applied by Safran Aircraft Engines and parent group Safran. We also invest heavily in research and technology resources, both financial and human. These investments have generated a number of innovations used in our products and processes, to deliver the highest-performance engines, modules and services to our customers and partners.
For example, the next-generation LEAP® engine offered by CFM International (a 50/50 company between Safran Aircraft Engines and GE), features a revolutionary new technology. The fan blades and cases on this engine are made of a 3D woven composite using the Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) process, to sufficiently decrease engine weight, which in turns reduces fuel consumption and NOx (oxides of nitrogen) emissions.
Operating in today's fiercely competitive environment, Safran Aircraft Engines leverages the power of these technologies to design new products and conquer these markets. We focus on developing an extensive portfolio of top-flight patents, covering all current and future products.
With more than 450 patent applications filed yearly, Safran Aircraft Engines is one of the leaders in France and in the global aerospace industry.
The sharp increase in the number of patents filed in recent years reflects our constant focus on the technological excellence of our products and processes.
Research & Technology
Safran Aircraft Engines's sustained leadership in its core markets is built on excellence in Research & Technology, from scientific research to the development of basic technologies, all leading up to production. The development of R&T depends in large part on partnerships with research labs and organizations, both in France (with ONERA, CEA, CNRS, universities, etc.), Europe and around the world, as well as technology partnerships with other manufacturers. For example, we teamed up with the metallurgical specialist Aubert & Duval to develop ML340, a new alloy used on the LEAP's turbine shaft. This new material will reduce engine weight because of its lower density, while also increasing torsional strength by 15%. At the same time, environmental issues have become major political and economic stakes for the air transport industry. In fact, we have long invested a significant share of our R&T budget in programs that aim to decrease aviation's environmental impact.
Joint research programs
Research is increasingly a joint effort, and Safran Aircraft Engines is a full-fledged member of dedicated networks or clubs, in which manufacturers and research organizations team up to work on subjects that address their specific requirements. Each network forms working groups focusing on specific subjects, resulting in research projects and the identification of co-funding sources
Safran Aircraft Engines's research programs
Safran Aircraft Engines also coordinates its own Research & Technology programs, with the support of French defense, civil aviation, space and other agencies (DGAC, DGA, CNES, MESR.
Our civil aviation projects
Safran Aircraft Engines offers state-of-the-art products, the fruit of our technological excellence and close relationships with customers. With our new generations of engines, we help make aircraft more reliable, less costly to operate and more eco-friendly.
New materials and aero-acoustic design for commercial airplanes
The entire commercial aviation industry, whether operators, manufacturers or users, share the same vital goals: drive down operating costs through reduced fuel consumption and easier maintenance; reduce environmental impact by cutting CO2 and NOx emissions, and decreasing noise. Through our long-term strategy anchored in innovation, we aim to provide the engines that meet these challenges. For instance, we are developing new materials such as 3D woven composites, and advanced metallic alloys, such as titanium aluminide (TiAl). Along with latest generation 3D aero design for the fan, compressor and turbine blades, these new technologies are lighter, stronger and more efficient. They reduce the weight of the propulsion system and also improve aero-acoustic performance. These technologies will enter service on the LEAP starting in 2016, for the greater benefit of all customers.
The added value delivered by the new-generation LEAP will ensure its long-term market viability, over at least the next 15 to 20 years. But reflecting our innovative mindset, at Safran Aircraft Engines we're already looking at disruptive propulsion systems for the future. These are designed to meet likely new market requirements towards 2030, when the next generation of single-aisle commercial jets will make its appearance. The aim is to provide operators with a significant reduction in operating costs, mainly by cutting fuel consumption by 25 to 30%.
One of these exciting new engine architectures is the counter-rotating open rotor (CROR), being developed as a technology demonstrator in the European research program Clean Sky. As part of the SAGE (Sustainable and Green Engine) ITD (Integrated Technology Demonstrator), Safran Aircraft Engines is coordinating the SAGE2 project, which is aiming for the ground test of a pusher configuration open rotor starting in 2016.
The SAGE2 project, led by Safran Aircraft Engines and part of Europe's Clean Sky research program, aims to ground test an Open Rotor engine demonstrator.
Safran Aircraft Engines is also studying ultra-high-bypass ratio (UHBR) type engines. The UHBR is a turbofan (shrouded fan) type configuration, but with a much higher bypass ratio, of 15:1 or higher. The main parts of the fan module use even lighter and stronger composite materials. In this type of engine the low-pressure turbine is optimized through the use of advanced 3D aero design and ceramic matrix composites (CMC). The UHPE (Ultra High Propulsive Efficiency) demonstrator should be ready for ground tests in 2021 as part of the European research program Clean Sky 2, and will be used to validate these new basic technologies and their integration in a UHBR architecture.
Future engine concepts
Looking further into the future, towards 2040-2050, Safran Aircraft Engines is also studying more exotic concepts, including hybrid or distributed propulsion systems, while airframers are also working on novel concepts for commercial airliners. Since engine and airplane architectures are intertwined, tomorrow's propulsion systems have to be strategically located to provide the most efficient and highest performance engine-airframe combination. Any future engine designs will have to be developed in close collaboration with the aircraft manufacturers. One of the major objectives of Safran's R&T efforts is to develop the basic technology building blocks needed to meet new propulsion requirements when the market is ready.
Innovation in defense applications
New technologies and architectures keyed to defense requirements
The military aviation market is being transformed by the advent of unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) with increasingly efficient and reliable propulsion systems. This vision is shared by Safran Aircraft Engines and Rolls-Royce, which have teamed up in their joint venture Rolls-Royce Snecma Ltd, to develop the propulsion system for the French-British FCAS (Future Combat Air System), which could take to the skies towards 2030.
The development of critical enabling technologies for tomorrow's combat drone and fighter engines is the key objective, including new composite materials and alloys, thermal coatings, etc.
Innovation in space
Plasma thrusters: towards the all-electric satellite
Satellite operators today want cost-effective propulsion solutions, from production to launch, to enhance their competitiveness in a demanding global market. Plasma (electric) thrusters meet this requirement, by delivering significant weight savings and increased orbital life for satellites. A 6-ton satellite with chemical propulsion systems, for instance, could shed 2 full tons for an equivalent payload if it changed to all-plasma propulsion. And that translates into a significant reduction in launch cost.
Technological expertise is the key to Safran Aircraft Engines's engine business. Safran invests heavily in R&D – 13% of consolidated revenues – which means that we can develop innovative solutions for our customers, enabling them to improve their efficiency and lower operating costs.
Lighter, stronger composites
The "3D weaving" solution is a way of making light yet strong complex parts from organic matrix composites, by building up a three-dimensional woven structure of carbon fibers. This patented technology is used on the fan blades and cases of the upcoming LEAP engine, which will power the next-generation single-aisle commercial jets to be offered by Airbus, Boeing and Comac. It was also selected by GE for the fan case on the GE9X, the powerful turbofan that will equip the new 777X long-haul widebody twin. 3D woven composites could easily expand their scope of application to medium or even low-power engines. Their impressive properties also mean that they would be a major asset on tomorrow's revolutionary new engines, like the UHBR or Open Rotor.
Higher-performance metal alloys
Titanium aluminide (TiAl) is a new-generation alloy with exceptional properties: standing up to temperatures of 750°C (~1,382°F), it also halves the weight of a low-pressure turbine blade, compared with the nickel alloys now used. On the new LEAP engine, it will be used for the first time in a engine powering single-aisle jets, and plays a major role in this engine's excellent performance.
New services based on data analysis
SFCO2® is a new service combining Safran Aircraft Engines' expertise as engine OEM with follow Safran company Safran Electronics and Defense's experience in advanced flight data analysis. It will enable airlines and other operators to cut their operating costs over the short or long term, through refined measurements of fleet fuel consumption, which also means lower CO2 emissions.
To foster new products and services, Safran Aircraft Engines has set up agile new units such as Product, Production and Service Innovation Workshops.
Safran Aircraft Engines also spotlights creativity across the company through a proactive employee-driven innovation initiative. In addition to annual awards for the best patented innovation, the idea is to recognize employee ideas for innovation in products, services, organization, operation, occupational health and working conditions. An annual awards ceremony recognizes the year's top innovations.
Learn about innovation at Safran on the website
Synergies and Innovation
Safran Aircraft Engines naturally participates in the research work being performed at Safran Tech, the new world-class corporate research center recently opened by Safran. Safran Tech focuses on the following areas:
- Advanced aerodynamic, thermal, mechanical, acoustic and combustion modeling.
- Ceramic matrix composites (CMC).
- Ramp-up and the second generation of organic matrix composite materials (Safran Composites).
- Sensors and information processing (including big data).
Working within the scope of Safran's strategic innovation policy, Safran Aircraft Engines is a leader in innovative ideas for turbomachinery and propulsion systems. We also capitalize on synergies with other Safran companies to incorporate the top technologies from everywhere in the Group.
For many years now, Safran Aircraft Engines has targeted a significant portion of his R&T budget to programs aiming to reduce aviation's environmental impact.
This research is largely guided by the objectives defined by ACARE, the Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe, bringing together all major players in European aviation research. ACARE defined a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) to meet the objectives of the "Flightpath 2050" roadmap for European aviation. Environmental protection is naturally one of the major goals, as reflected in these ambitious objectives for 2050: reducing perceived noise by 65%, CO2 emissions per passenger-kilometer by 75%, and NOx emissions by 90%, all in relation to a year 2000 baseline.
Safran Aircraft Engines participates in the major European research programs described below.
Safran is a major contributor to the European Clean Sky research program, dedicated to environmental protection for aviation. A technology research initiative launched in 2008 as a public-private partnership, with equal funding by the European Commission and industry, the original Clean Sky was funded at 1.6 billion euros, and the follow-on Clean Sky 2 at 4 billion euros. A key to current aviation research, Clean Sky aims to foster the development of innovative or even disruptive technologies that will lead to more environmentally-friendly air transport by 2030-2035. It provides for full-scale ground and flight demonstrators, and integrating system simulations on aircraft platforms. Among these demonstrators, Safran Aircraft Engines is in charge of the pusher Open Rotor engine program, scheduled for ground testing as from 2016. This is the SAGE (Sustainable and Green Engine) Integrated Technology Demonstrator (ITD). Safran Aircraft Engines is also conducting studies on an Ultra High Bypass Ratio (UHBR) configuration within the scope of Clean Sky 2. A demonstrator dubbed UHPE (Ultra High Propulsive Efficiency), slated for ground testing in 2021, should validate the underlying technological building blocks and their integration in a UHBR architecture.
Carrying on the objectives of the SILENCE(R) program dedicated to reducing aircraft noise, the program OPENAIR (Optimisation for low Environmental Noise impact AIRcraft), budgeted at 30 million euros, was completed in 2014. Safran, a leader in European acoustic research programs for several years, coordinated the OPENAIR program, which aimed to reduce aircraft engine noise by 2.5 dB.
The development of new aeronautical technologies to reduce the environmental footprint of the air transport industry is a major political, social and economic challenge. Safran Aircraft Engines has long integrated these key concerns in all aspects of engine production, from the original design to dismantling and recycling. In short, we contribute to the sustainable development of the aviation sector. A large part of our Research & Technology budget goes to ambitious programs designed to meet the goals set by ACARE (Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe) to reduce environmental impact. By continuously improving our products and services through new technologies, including a significant margin to ensure the sector's sustainable growth, Safran Aircraft Engines is planning ahead to meet the overall environmental objectives for aviation. These objectives are coordinated internationally with other industry majors, including engine and aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports, air navigation authorities, etc. For example, both Safran and CFM International are represented in ATAG (Air Transport Action Group), which aims to define the air transport industry's strategy, and maintain its growth and competitiveness. We are also involved in the development and application of international standards defined by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), and we are members of a number of French, European and international research networks on specific subjects.
Safran Aircraft Engines is also investing in actions to meet European environmental regulations like REACH, designed to replace or limit hazardous chemical substances produced or used in Europe. In addition to the introduction of these new technologies, the need to reduce greenhouse gases has also led Safran Aircraft Engines to support the development of sustainable biofuels, that do not use food resources as feedstocks. For example, Safran Aircraft Engines, Total and other major corporations are partners in the Air France initiative "Lab'line for the future", which has resulted in a weekly flight of an Airbus A320 from Toulouse to Paris, using a biofuel. Safran Aircraft Engines' environmental policy naturally applies to all our production facilities as well. In particular, these actions are designed to reduce environmental impact, by reducing water and energy consumption, sorting waste, decreasing the use of volatile organic compounds (VOC), and identifying "greener" processes, within the scope of a continuous improvement approach supported by our ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certifications, for the environmental management system and occupational health and safety, respectively.
Environmental policy and research
The development of new aeronautical technologies to reduce the environmental footprint of the air transport industry is a major political, social and economic challenge.
Safran Aircraft Engines has long integrated these key concerns in all aspects of engine production, from the original design to dismantling and recycling. In short, we contribute to the sustainable development of the aviation sector.
A large part of our Research & Technology budget goes to ambitious programs designed to meet the goals set by ACARE (Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe) to reduce environmental impact. By continuously improving our products and services through new technologies, including a significant margin to ensure the sector's sustainable growth, Safran Aircraft Engines is planning ahead to meet the overall environmental objectives for aviation. These objectives are coordinated internationally with other industry majors, including engine and aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports, air navigation authorities, etc. For example, both Safran and CFM International are represented in ATAG (Air Transport Action Group), which aims to define the air transport industry's strategy, and maintain its growth and competitiveness. We are also involved in the development and application of international standards defined by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), and we are members of a number of French, European and international research networks on specific subjects.
Safran Aircraft Engines is also investing in actions to meet European environmental regulations like REACH, designed to replace or limit hazardous chemical substances produced or used in Europe.
In addition to the introduction of these new technologies, the need to reduce greenhouse gases has also led Safran Aircraft Engines to support the development of sustainable biofuels, that do not use food resources as feedstocks. For example, Safran Aircraft Engines, Total and other major corporations are partners in the Air France initiative "Lab'line for the future", which has resulted in a weekly flight of an Airbus A320 from Toulouse to Paris, using a biofuel.
Safran Aircraft Engines' environmental policy naturally applies to all our production facilities as well. In particular, these actions are designed to reduce environmental impact, by reducing water and energy consumption, sorting waste, decreasing the use of volatile organic compounds (VOC), and identifying "greener" processes, within the scope of a continuous improvement approach supported by our ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certifications, for the environmental management system and occupational health and safety, respectively.
Aviation accounts for about 2% of the world's CO2 emissions. Despite this relatively low proportion, the entire aviation industry is focused on reducing fuel consumption. Over the last 40 years in fact, fuel consumption has been reduced by 70%, and increasingly ambitious research programs have come to the fore. Leading these efforts on aircraft engines is CFM International, the 50/50 joint company between Safran Aircraft Engines and GE that makes the best-selling CFM56.
Safran Aircraft Engines is a member of the ICAO's working groups, which are developing a future standard for CO2, to be submitted to the annual general meeting in 2016 .
CFM's new LEAP engine will reduce fuel consumption by 15% compared with the current generation. By about 2030, a new generation of high-bypass engines, like the open rotor already being studied by Safran Aircraft Engines, will play a decisive role in gaining a further 15% reduction.
Safran Aircraft Engines is actively focusing on meeting the objectives set by ACARE (Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe), through the Vision 2020 and Flightpath 2050 roadmaps, to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2020 (versus 2000), and 75% by 2050. All constituent parts of the air transport industry will contribute to this reduction: aircraft, engines, traffic management.
Safran Aircraft Engines is taking a multipronged research approach, including: engine weight reduction through the development of new materials, improved component and thermodynamic cycle efficiency, and innovative engine architectures, such as the counter-rotating open rotor being studied as part of the European research program Clean Sky.
Another area of research is the development and support of replacement fuels for conventional jet fuel. These fuels should significantly reduce CO2 emissions, be sustainable and available at competitive prices, while enabling to limit our dependence on fossil fuels.
- Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) are regulated by standards issued by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), as well as local regulations at certain airports. When engine are certified, the level of emissions is also validated. Safran Aircraft Engines and CFM International partner GE were the first to offer, as early as 1995, a low-NOx combustor, on the CFM56 engine. The upcoming LEAP engines will drastically reduce NOx emissions thanks to the use of a lean-combustion, multipoint injection system, providing a full 50% margin in relation to CAEP/6 standards.
- Hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions are also regulated by ICAO standards for engine certification. Today's engines emit very small quantities of these pollutants, and have considerably decreased these releases since the 1960s. Smoke and particles are produced in combustion chambers at high temperatures. Non-volatile particles, mainly carbon-based, are now being studied by ICAO, and will be covered by an upcoming international standard for engine certification, which should be proposed in February 2016. It will mainly have a local impact, but the cumulated effect of these particles is the subject of many scientific studies. At Safran Aircraft Engines, we now favor the use of lean combustion technologies, which, in addition to reducing NOx emissions, also decrease the particles released by the engine. Most pollution around airports actually comes from vehicles and heating facilities.
The considerable technological progress achieved by aircraft and engine manufacturers in the last 40 years has reduced aircraft noise by 75%.
Noise is regulated by the ICAO's international standards for aircraft certification. This standard is regularly made stricter, and the latest standard, approved in 2013, will take effect on January 1, 2018 for new type certificates awarded to aircraft weighing over 55 metric tons. The main approaches used to reduce the noise generated by propulsion systems are: increasing the bypass flow, optimizing fan, compressor and turbine blade shapes, acoustic treatments of the engine, nacelle and other surfaces.
Safran Aircraft Engines invests heavily in research to reduce noise, aiming for the ambitious objectives defined by ACARE for 2020 and 2050. We have coordinated major European research programs, including the recently completed OPENAIR, which nearly reached the targeted 2.5 dB noise reduction, in addition to the 5dB reduction already achieved by the previous SILENCE(R) program. A total of 15 new technologies were validated, concerning both engines and aircraft.
The materials used to make engine parts play a significant role in environmental performance. Choosing the right ones is very important, because lighter parts help reduce fuel consumption and emissions. And their resistance to high temperatures means we can improve the thermal efficiency of turbomachines. Some types of ceramic matrix composites can even stand up to temperatures reaching 1300°C (~2,372°F).
Materials are subject to European regulations, especially REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemical substances), which took effect on June 1, 2007. From now till 2018 REACh will support the gradual deployment of a system to assess and control chemical substances, whether manufactured or used in Europe. The aim is to quickly identify the most critical substances and limit or stop their use.
Replacement substances will gradually be introduced, and all will be identified by all participants in the supply chain, which will track these substances.
Safran Aircraft Engines helped draw up these regulations. A number of products have been eliminated over the years, and many different replacements found. In addition to eliminating these products, raw material sources have to be protected and optimized, and we are involved in various recycling systems.
To further reduce engine fuel consumption, and therefore greenhouse gases, Safran companies Aircraft Engines and Electronics & Defense provide recommendations to their airline customers on the best operational practices, based on advanced analysis of "flight ops" using powerful algorithms, including data from flight recorders and operational publications.
Safran Aircraft Engines and Safran Electronics & Defense do not only issue recommendations, but help operators apply these new practices, while also taking charge of crew training and information.
In addition to specialized support, airlines also get a set of tools enabling them to regularly track their progress. They can see if they are meeting objectives, and measure the remaining potential for progress. This service, called SFCO2®, also gives pilots the innovative data processing tools needed to analyze their own flights.
SFCO2® is marketed by Safran Electronics & Defense via its Cassiopée/Flight Ops Efficiency service, and by Safran Aircraft Engines, under its EngineLife® support label.
Safran Aircraft Engines also offers engine health monitoring services to ensure optimum operating efficiency.