Improving Aircraft Engine Combustor Simulations

PI Name: 
Peter Bradley
PI Email:
Pratt & Whitney
Allocation Program: 
Allocation Hours at ALCF: 
1.3 Million
Research Domain: 

A jet engine combustor combines air flowing faster than a hurricane with swirling fuel to generate the extraordinary release of heat that ultimately powers the aircraft. Understanding these complex physical and chemical interactions is criti­cal to fuel efficiency and emissions performance, but physical testing can be difficult and time consuming.


Computer simulation of the complex physics of a combustor creates a “virtual test,” thus reducing the need for physical testing. Pratt & Whitney has been exploring leading-edge combustor design methods using the Blue Gene/P supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility as part of DOE’s INCITE program.


This INCITE project has led to improved capabilities and reduced solution times for 3-D combustor simulations. The work has been a key enabler for the depth of under­standing needed to meet emissions goals. INCITE 2006-2007 technologies are now being applied to Pratt & Whitney’s next-generation, low-emission Geared Turbofan™ engine. This groundbreaking engine will deliver unprecedented reductions in emissions, noise, and cost of owner­ship compared to current engines.

Future Efforts

Researchers plan to use the Blue Gene/P to complete high-fidelity simulations that will give new insights on aerody­namic behavior inside an oper­ating jet engine combustor.