Trent 900

Rolls-Royce and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will work jointly with the Universities of Cambridge, Birmingham and Swansea in a new £50 million strategic partnership.

The UK is experiencing a chronic shortage of materials scientists despite a clear industrial need.

Dr Cathie Rae

Over the next 10 years, a Strategic Partnership in Structural Metallic Systems for Advanced Gas Turbine Applications will develop materials skills and knowledge to support the development of future gas turbines. It builds on a highly successful University Technology Partnership funded by Rolls-Royce between the Universities of Cambridge, Birmingham and Swansea.

Fundamental materials research is needed to develop materials that will improve the efficiency and environmental sustainability of gas turbines, which provide the power for many applications including aircraft, ships and electricity generation. Principal Investigator Dr Howard Stone, from the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, explained: ‘Dwindling resources and climate change are forcing engineering designers to utilise materials and energy supplies with ever-greater efficiency. One approach is to find materials that withstand gas combusting at higher temperatures, since this uses less energy and creates less CO2.’

To meet this challenge, the programme brings together a critical mass of researchers to increase the efficiency of known materials or to find new materials that can be used for the hottest parts of the engine. Cambridge’s contribution will be to develop and test new structural metallic materials that will withstand ever more extreme conditions of temperature and pressure, as well as being safe and economical.

The funding also includes a Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) to help create the next generation of world-class materials scientists and metallurgical engineers. ‘The UK is experiencing a chronic shortage of materials scientists despite a clear industrial need,’ said Dr Cathie Rae, who is coordinating the Cambridge DTP. A total of 60 students across the three universities will undertake research of strategic value to Rolls-Royce and the gas turbine industry in general, as well as taught courses amounting to a year of training. ‘Our goal is to equip scientists of the future with the skills needed to underpin industries as diverse as aeroengineering, nuclear power and construction.’

Naked Scientist takes on materials science

The Rolls-Royce Strategic Partnership includes funds to recruit a new member to the award-winning Naked Scientists team, whose weekly radio programmes and podcasts reach a worldwide audience of more than 20 million people per week.
Working with Naked Scientist Dr Chris Smith, the new team member’s focus will be to publicise materials science research as a means to improving the general perception of metallurgical engineering and to encourage more young people into science and engineering. For more information, please contact Dr Chris Smith ( or visit

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