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The future of aircraft design takes flight

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The future of aircraft design takes flight
École Polytechnique has officially inaugurated the NSERC- J.-Armand Bombardier-Pratt & Whitney Canada Industrial Research Chair in Integrated Design toward Efficient Aircraft (IDEA).


April 23, 2010
By Carey Fredericks

April 23, 2010, Montreal – Surrounded by representatives of its industrial partners and guests from the aerospace industry, École Polytechnique today officially inaugurated the NSERC- J.-Armand Bombardier-Pratt & Whitney Canada Industrial Research Chair in Integrated Design toward Efficient Aircraft (IDEA). The new chair forms the basis of a solid partnership dedicated to designing the aircraft of the future in Montréal, an aviation development hub.

Held by Jean-Yves Trépanier, Full Professor with Polytechnique's Department of Mechanical Engineering, the chair will have a total operating budget of $2 million over a five-year period. Half of this amount will come from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada(NSERC). The J.-Armand Bombardier Foundation and Pratt & Whitney Canada will each contribute $500,000.

R&D in aircraft design: for an environmentally friendly future

In the coming decades, as aircraft design R&D increasingly targets reductions in fuel burn, pollutant emissions and noise, innovative and more integrated design methods will be needed to fully realize the synergies between aerodynamics and propulsion systems. The IDEA Industrial Research Chair will play a decisive role by helping to advance knowledge of integrated aerodynamic design, in order to lower costs and improve the performance of future aeronautics systems.

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"At the NSERC, we aim to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators to the benefit of all Canadians," said Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). "Programs like the Industrial Research Chairs help the NSERC achieve this vision. Professor Trépanier deserves to be part of this prestigious group: he has worked in the field of mechanical engineering for nearly 19 years and his expertise is sought all over North America. What's more, his peers consider him one of Canada's top scientists in the field."

Specialized tools to revolutionize aerodynamic design

To push the limits of modern aircraft design, powerful tools will be needed to collect the data that will enable innovative configurations. Professor Trépanier's laboratories and specialized equipment are central to the chair's research, which is to focus on three main areas:

    – Increasing the aerodynamic efficiency of aircraft components based on advanced aerodynamic and multidisciplinary design methodologies;
    – Improving air-vehicle performance by considering more comprehensive component integration and by using higher-fidelity models at the conceptual design stage;
    – Developing aerodynamic and multidisciplinary approaches to analysis and design in order to explore innovative aerodynamic and propulsion concepts for future aircraft.

"The aviation industry is deeply invested in sustainable development, aiming for a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050," said Fassi Kafyeke, Director, Strategic Technologies, Bombardier Aerospace. "For this, significant progress is required in the areas of automation, embedded systems and configurations. The IDEA Chair will help us move configurations decisively forward by applying advanced methods of multidisciplinary optimization."

"This chair is an important step forward in Canada's efforts to remain an aerospace industry leader by developing innovative designs and technologies, and advancing knowledge in areas of aerodynamic design integration and optimisation," said Mario Modafferi, Executive Director of Research and Technology at Pratt & Whitney Canada. "We have already had a good deal of success, but research into greener engines is a continuing journey."

An industrial and educational partner

Besides contributing to the development of innovative aircraft, the chair will also train tomorrow's specialist engineers by taking on some 20 undergraduate and graduate students.

"Polytechnique is strongly committed to its industry partners and enjoys a special relationship with them," said Professor Trépanier. "The creation of this chair lets us play a key role in Canada's strategy to remain at the leading edge of innovation and the training of the next generation of engineers." Industrial partners who contribute financially to the project will remain closely involved in the research by providing 600 hours of engineering expertise annually.

"The aircraft of the 21st century will be greener, faster and more economical," said Lyne Lavoie, Executive Director of the J.-Armand Bombardier Foundation. "Innovation, which is central to the mission of the J.-Armand Bombardier Foundation, is critical to meeting this challenge. Through the chair directed by Professor Trépanier, students from École Polytechnique will be at the forefront of this new industrial revolution."

Research areas include:

    Area 1
    – Developing forecasting and aircraft-drag decomposition tools;
    – Developing a multidisciplinary design methodology for a transonic fan integrating aerodynamics, vibration and noise.

    Area 2
    – Integrating high-fidelity analysis into a preliminary design tool for turbocharger;
    – Applying B2B multidisciplinary design to the optimization of turbocharger diameters.

    Area 3
    – Developing a preliminary design methodology for blended-wing-body aircraft;
    – Predicting aerodynamic stability and control coefficients through CF simulation.