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What New Aviation Technologies Are Enabling Hybrid Jet Engines?

Achieving Sustainability & Energy Efficiency With Seals & Materials

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By Mark Scoular (May 2024) 


In the pursuit of sustainability and efficiency, the aviation industry is at the forefront of integrating advanced aviation technologies to develop hybrid jet engines. These innovative propulsion systems are designed to reduce fuel consumption, decrease carbon emissions, and enhance performance. 

Among the myriad of aviation technologies enabling these leaps, electric propulsion systems, distributed propulsion, hydrogen-based propulsion systems, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), and advanced materials stand out. With a target of achieving Net Zero by 2050, hydrogen is gaining traction as a future fuel source within propulsion systems and fuel cells, as it does not emit carbon dioxide (CO2) in flight and could be used to generate electricity for powering propellers. Critical to the success of these emerging aviation technologies is the role of sophisticated sealing solutions, which ensure the reliability and safety of these advanced engines by controlling leakage and withstanding extreme operating conditions.

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Pushing Propulsion & Fuel Systems

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Electric Propulsion

Electric propulsion systems represent a revolutionary shift in aviation technologies towards greener aviation. These systems utilize electric motors, powered by batteries or fuel cells, to provide thrust. 

The integration of these electric components with traditional jet engines forms the backbone of hybrid propulsion systems. Using these aviation technologies reduces reliance on fossil fuels and diminishes the environmental footprint of air travel. 

Sealing technologies play a critical role in this paradigm shift. High-performance seals are designed to withstand extreme temperatures and pressures, essential in maintaining the integrity of battery compartments and fuel cells.  Using precision sealing solutions ensure the safe and efficient operation of electric propulsion systems. For example, polymer, spring-energized seals provide excellent sealing control in both low and high temperatures; support wear and friction control; offer higher mechanical resistance in a variety of chemicals; and have low H2 permeability. Metal seals provide very low allowable leakage under extremely high pressures in high temperature environments. Combined with soft material coatings like tin or indium for gas-tight sealing, or gold or silver to reduce the risk of hydrogen embrittlement.  Since hydrogen has a low molecular weight, its molecules when pressurized can permeate certain materials, leading to cracks – a phenomena called hydrogen embrittlement.

Distributed Propulsion

The concept of distributed propulsion involves the strategic placement of multiple, smaller engines across an aircraft's airframe. This approach offers improved efficiency and creates new possibilities in aircraft design and aerodynamics.  Distributed propulsion systems can significantly enhance the lift-to-drag ratio, leading to more fuel-efficient aircraft. 

In this context, the versatility of sealing solutions in aviation technologies becomes evident. A wide variety of aviation seals are tailored to fit the diverse sizes and shapes of smaller engines. This ensures that each component operates optimally, free from the risks of leakage or environmental ingress. Therefore, hybrid engine manufacturers seek sealing solution partners who can engineer custom solutions with a proven history of resilience and longtime performance, whether it be a certain sealing profile or geometry.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF)

SAF are at the core of the aviation industry's efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Made from sustainable resources, SAF can significantly lower carbon emissions compared to conventional jet fuels. 

For hybrid jet engines, the use of SAF complements the environmental benefits offered by electric propulsion systems. However, the chemical properties of SAF can differ from those of traditional fuels, necessitating specialized sealing solutions. 

Advanced sealing technologies, resistant to the potentially corrosive effects of SAF, are critical in adapting fuel systems to these greener fuels, ensuring compatibility and prolonging the lifespan of aviation equipment. One of the technology advantages of polymer seals is its chemical compatibility as they will not contaminate sensitive media and are non-soluble.

Advanced Materials in Aviation Technologies

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The development of lightweight, high-strength materials is pivotal in the evolution of hybrid jet engines. These include materials like advanced composites.

Ultimately, these polymer materials contribute to reducing the overall weight of the aircraft, which in turn, enhances fuel efficiency and performance. The integration of these advanced materials into engine designs challenges existing sealing technologies, requiring innovations in material science.

Omniseal Solutions is at the forefront of this challenge, developing high-performance seals that can maintain their integrity and functionality when interfacing with cutting-edge composite materials. These seals are designed to meet the rigorous demands of the aviation industry. Therefore, they are an excellent solution for use with aviation technologies to ensure reliability and efficiency in hybrid jet engines.

The Role of Sealing Technologies

Sealing technologies are the unsung heroes in the evolution of hybrid jet engines. As the aviation industry embraces new aviation technologies, like electric propulsion systems, distributed propulsion, SAF, and advanced materials, the demand for specialized sealing solutions has surged. 

At Omniseal Solutions, our expertise in creating high-performance seals for a wide variety of aviation applications plays a pivotal role in this transition. From ensuring the integrity of electric motor compartments to adapting fuel systems for SAF, and accommodating the unique properties of advanced materials, the contribution of advanced sealing solutions to the development of hybrid jet engines cannot be overstated.

When protecting passengers every day is a must, every component on an aircraft must be carefully selected. Seals are among the most critical components to ensure safety as well as reliability and comfort. Not only do they prevent fluid leakage, but they keep air, dirt, and debris out of systems. Any contamination can lead to internal leakage and lowered efficiency.

If seals fail, the entire aircraft performance can be jeopardized. That is why quality and reliability cannot be compromised. Seals are heavily used across the aviation industry in countless applications and system-critical areas.

Aviation Technologies Are Advancing The Utility of Hybrid Jet Engines

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The journey towards more sustainable and efficient aircraft propulsion systems is multifaceted, involving the integration of groundbreaking aviation technologies. 

Electric propulsion systems, distributed propulsion, the use of SAF, and the adoption of advanced materials are driving the evolution of aviation technologies. The continuing support of innovative sealing technologies ensure their successful implementation. 

As the aviation industry continues to advance, the role of sealing solutions in enabling these aviation technologies will remain indispensable. They will safeguard the reliability and performance of hybrid jet engines. 

The collaborative spirit between engineers and sealing technology experts, such as those at Omniseal Solutions, is key to realizing the full potential of these aviation technologies. By incorporating aviation technologies, they can pave the way for a greener, more efficient future in air travel.

Tags: Aviation Wear & Friction Self Lubrication