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Russia continues tests of flying testbed with superconducting electric aircraft engine

9 February 2021

Russia continues tests of flying testbed with superconducting electric aircraft engine

On 5 February 2021, ground tests of a demonstrator of a hybrid power plant (HPP) equipped with a superconducting electric aircraft engine began at the airfield of the Chaplygin Siberian Aviation Research Institute (SibNIA, a part of the National Research Center “Zhukovsky Institute”) located in Novosibirsk, Russia.

The tests, which included starting the electric engine and the aircraft systems, confirmed their correct performance and joint operation.

The electric engine is a part of the HPP demonstrator which is developed by the Central Institute of Aviation Motors (CIAM, also a part of the National Research Center “Zhukovsky Institute”) in a broad cooperation with Russian companies within the framework of a State contract with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia.

The innovative 500-kilowatt electric aircraft engine using the effect of high-temperature superconductivity was developed by SuperOx on a contract with the Advanced Research Foundation (FPI). Before being installed on the aircraft, the engine underwent a set of tests on ground benches at CIAM.

Commenting on the FPI participation in the creation of the high-temperature superconducting electric motor, the FPI head Andrei Grigoryev noted that the project started in December 2016. “The technologies being implemented open up opportunities for the creation of fully electric aircraft. We will support these projects in every possible way,” said Andrei Grigoryev.

Andrey Vavilov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ZAO SuperOx, noted: “Our company is at the world’s forefront in the field of HTSC technologies. It is noteworthy that they find their application in such an important industry for Russia as aircraft construction."

The HPP demonstrator also includes an electric generator developed and created at CIAM jointly with the Ufa State Aviation Technical University (USATU). The 400-kW generator weighs 100 kg and has passed both bench tests and tests as part of a turbine generator (with a serial turboshaft aircraft engine).

The flying testbed based on the Yak-40 aircraft was developed by SibNIA. For testing, the electric engine with the propeller was installed in the aircraft nose. The standard AI-25 engine in the rear fuselage was replaced by a turboshaft gas turbine engine with the electric generator. In the central part of the fuselage, lithium-ion batteries were installed, which are also part of the HPP.

The work is scheduled to be completed in 2022 and will result in flight tests of the HPP demonstrator. They will allow to test constructive approaches to the creation of such power plants, to assess the effectiveness of the applied technical solutions.

“The use of hybrid technology for aviation will allow reduction of fuel consumption up to 70 percent and substantially cut harmful emissions. In addition, due to the fact that aviation requirements for technology are the most stringent, this makes it possible to implement them in other industries. And it is here that applied science is the driver of highly intelligent and complex innovative technologies,” noted Andrey Dutov, the Director General of the National Research Center “Zhukovsky Institute”.

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