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Engineering Atoms

at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2015

Who are we?

Our group, the University of Cambridge Rolls Royce University Technology Centre, set up in 1994 is such an industry sponsored scheme. Researchers study all aspects of the behaviour of materials used in jet engines. A team of 6 post docs and over a dozen PhD students led by Cathie Rae and Howard Stone probe the mechanisms that control how materials - alloys, ceramics and wear resistant coatings - perform.

What research do we focus on?

The research of the UTC group at Cambridge is centred on the need for the development of advanced materials for gas turbine engines. The aim is to broaden understanding to optimise the use of existing alloys and to develop new ones.

What does a jet engine need?

Materials that can stand up to high stresses and in the hottest parts of the engine temperatures approaching 1200°C. Research at Cambridge looks at developing nickel superalloys for turbine discs, intermetallics for turbine blades, steel for shafts and novel abrasive materials for blade tips.

Whilst an engine can go from drawing board to manufacture in three to five, years it takes at least ten to develop new high performance materials let alone understand their behaviour.

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