Wings Magazine

Special team of researchers aim to trim fuel costs

Feb. 21, 2013, Montreal - Inspired by the albatross, which uses the wind to glide effortlessly across great distances, the next generation of aircraft could rely on lengthened wings, thus reducing their fuel consumption by 10 per cent, according to Polytechnique Montréal professor Éric Laurendeau.

February 21, 2013  By Carey Fredericks

This morning, Professor Laurendeau launched a research project titled Multi-Fidelity Computational Fluid Dynamics for Aircraft Stability and Control Aerodynamics in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Bombardier Aerospace and the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec (Consortium de recherche et d'innovation en aérospatiale au Québec — CRIAQ).

One of the aerospace industry's most important goals is, without a doubt, to reduce fuel consumption. Steady progress has been made in recent years, and today's aircraft use 50% less fuel than those of the 1960s. Nevertheless, members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed in 1990 to improve aircraft energy performance by 2% annually through to 2050.

But how to attain this ambitious goal? "One key direction is aircraft design optimization," said Professor Laurendeau, project lead. Professor Laurendeau is very aware of industry issues, having worked for a decade in research and development with Bombardier before making the leap to university research and joining Polytechnique Montréal's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

"CFD, or computational fluid dynamics, provides the aerospace industry with precise and effective tools for designing airplanes, but many aspects remain to be developed," he continued. "Over the next three years, our team will attack this issue and concentrate its efforts on unsteady flows over complex configurations, including ailerons, spoilers and horizontal stabilizers, in both the preliminary design and detail design phases. We also want to provide the most complete tools possible to the engineers who are designing the airplanes of the future."

Boosting aircraft energy performance


The simulation tool that will be developed at Polytechnique will take into account all the aircraft's configurations from its departure point to its arrival point: trailing-edge and leading-edge flaps deployed and retracted, more and less pronounced takeoff and landing trajectories, straight and curved in-flight trajectories, and so forth. All these components will be evaluated with a view to designing aircraft that are more fuel-efficient.

A project benefiting from multiple collaborations and training young talent

The project will benefit from a budget totalling nearly $500,000 over three years from the NSERC ($240,000), Bombardier Aerospace ($120,000) and CRIAQ ($120,000). It will also gain from collaborations with international experts from both the institutional (KTH Royal Institute of Technology of Stockholm, Sweden) and industrial (CFS Engineering, Lausanne,Switzerland) sectors. And there will be an in-kind contribution from Bombardier Aerospace. "This latter contribution will enable us to contextualize the research," said Professor Laurendeau. "This is very interesting for the students, because it offers the possibility of making a direct bridge between the advances and the applications."

For his part, Fassi Kafyeke, Director of Strategic Technology, Bombardier Aerospace, stated: "It is estimated that 60% to 80% of the environmental impact of an aircraft is determined at the design stage. The project launched today by Professor Eric Laurendeau in the CFD field is very promising and supports the objectives that we have set for ourselves in terms of design for environment aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of our products."

Clément Fortin, President and CEO of CRIAQ, noted: "The Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Québec is a network working from a one-of-a-kind model. The consortium develops and fosters collaboration between industrial specialists and researchers for pre-competitive aerospace research projects. This collaborative research project with Bombardier and Professor Laurendeau's team is a perfect illustration of the power of industry-university partnerships." He continued: "In addition to allowing researchers to contribute to the technological advancement of the industry, CRIAQ is a top-notch incubator for young talent, generating a specialized work force for businesses in the sector."

And Christophe Guy, Chief Executive Officer of Polytechnique Montréal, added: "The research project launched today will effectively be an opportunity to train a highly specialized cohort, including four doctoral, four master's and three bachelor's students. These students will have the chance to work in close collaboration with the aerospace industry and be introduced to a milieu of international co-operation."

About the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)

NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports almost 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding approximately 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging over 2,400 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.


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