Recent increases in fuel prices and increased focus on aviation’s environmental impacts have reignited focus on the open rotor engine concept. This type of architecture was extensively investigated in previous decades but was not pursued through to commercialization due to relatively high noise levels and a sudden, sharp decrease in fuel prices. More recent increases in fuel prices and increased government pressure from taxing carbon-dioxide production mean the open rotor is once again being investigated as a viable concept. Advances in aero-acoustic design tools have allowed industry and academia to re-investigate the open rotor with an increased emphasis on noise reduction while retaining the fuel burn benefits due to the increased propulsive efficiency. Recent research with conceptual level multidisciplinary considerations of the open rotor has been performed , but there remains a need for a holistic approach that includes the coupled effects of the engine and airframe on fuel burn, emissions, and noise.
Years of research at Georgia Institute of Technology have led to the development of the Environmental Design Space (EDS) . EDS serves to capture interdependencies at the conceptual design level of fuel burn, emissions, and noise for conventional and advanced engine and airframe architectures. Recently, leveraging NASA Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) modeling efforts, EDS has been updated to include an open rotor model to capture, in an integrated fashion, the effects of an open rotor on conventional airframe designs. Due to the object oriented nature of EDS, the focus has been on designing modular elements that can be updated as research progresses. A power management scheme has also been developed with the future capability to trade between fuel efficiency and noise using the variable pitch propeller system. Since the original GE open rotor test was performed using a military core, there is interest in seeing the effect of modern core-engine technology on the integrated open rotor performance. This research applies the modular EDS open rotor model in an engine cycle study to investigate the sensitivity of thermal efficiency improvements on open rotor performance, including the effects on weight and vehicle performance. The results are that advances in the core cycle are necessary to enable future bypass ratio growth and the trades between core operating temperatures and size become more significant as bypass ratio continues to increase. A general benefit of a 30% reduction in block fuel is seen on a 737–800 sized aircraft.