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Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates covers top industry events to bring you the latest news, highlighting how it impacts Boeing and its competitors.

September 25, 2011 at 12:35 PM

The dazzling physics Rolls-Royce provides to the 787 Dreamliner

Posted by Dominic Gates

787_ANA_engine Sept 2011.jpeg

What metallic object spins at supersonic speeds, about 900 mph, and operates at a temperature half as hot as the sun?

Details after the jump.

The 787's Rolls-Royce engine.

Actually, any modern jet engine approaches this astonishing performance. The Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 powering the Dreamliner is just the most efficient example being produced today.

Bill Boyd, the new head of Rolls-Royce's Boeing support office in Seattle, just gave a briefing on the engine that began with the utterly dazzling engineering behind the engine.

Steel starts to glow red at 1,292 degrees F, but inside the engine core the temperature reaches higher than 3,000 degrees F. Somehow the engineers contrive with special coatings and heat distribution to prevent the metal from melting.

Meanwhile the tips of the hollow titanium fan blades at the front are spinning at 900 mph. At take-off, the force on each blade is equivalent to hanging a freight train off the blade, Boyd said.

And inside the core, many little three-inch blades turn, each one producing as much power as a NASCAR auto in an environment that is beyond the melting point of the metal.

It's physics that seems like magic.

The Rolls-Royce engine is certified to fly 5.5 hours ETOPS (i.e. the plane is certified to fly that long with one engine out.)

And wile the 787 is in service, a team of Rolls-Royce engineers will monitor the engines while in flight via a radio frequency data communications and detect any degradation in performance that might need to be dealt with upon landing.

The Dreamliner's Trent 1000, Boyd said, is "the most efficient, highest technology production engine in the world today."

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