Product stewardship & supply chain
Product stewardship & supply chain
Airlines transported 4.3 billion passengers worldwide to their destinations in 2018—a new record year for aviation. This success calls on us to take responsibility. Sustained growth requires sustainable innovations, to which we want to make a decisive contribution. As an engine manufacturer, we are working hard to considerably reduce the fuel consumption, carbon footprint and noise of aircraft engines.
MTU is working on solutions to make flying more environmentally friendly, with a focus on reducing fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and noise emissions of engines. These are factors it can directly influence with its high-pressure compressors and low-pressure turbines. Sustainable product development with reduced fuel consumption and lower noise emissions is contained in the MTU Principles. We have also formulated guidelines on product development according to environmental criteria in our MTU Code of Conduct. Fuel consumption is directly proportional to CO2 emissions, and both contribute to climate change caused by aviation. Improving fuel efficiency is very important to us, as it reduces both resource consumption and the impact on the climate.
MTU also pursues the European industry and research sector’s Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) and is committed to its climate and noise targets. In doing so, we support the ambitious global goals of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to ensure carbon-neutral aviation growth starting in 2020 and a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 in comparison with 2005 levels.
We are committed to the principle of integrated environmental protection, which takes a precautionary approach to how the company’s products impact the environment and integrates insights from this into entrepreneurial decisions. In the technology and innovation process, our experts investigate environmental and societal driving forces for aviation and take them into account when defining MTU concepts and targets. We receive input for our analyses and stakeholder expectations through various channels as part of our stakeholder dialog, which we conduct on an ongoing basis with all stakeholders. → More about stakeholder dialog
Our contribution to the SDGs
Our sustainable product solutions for aviation are a way for us to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s 2030 Agenda. MTU supports SDG 9 on “Industry, innovation and infrastructure,” SDG 12 on “Responsible consumption and production” and SDG 13 on “Climate action.” Moreover, a secondary objective of SDG 9 calls for research and development to be expanded by 2030. We conduct intensive research work with numerous specialists in the company and in cooperation with universities and research institutions.
Research and development
MTU is a major technology leader in the aviation industry, and so innovation and research are key cornerstones of our strategy. An Innovation Board regularly discusses all topics related to technology and innovation and initiates technology projects and studies. The Technology steering committee, of which the Chief Operating and Chief Program Officers are also members, approves MTU’s technology roadmap and is regularly updated on progress and the course of the projects. MTU manages its product development in a multilevel technology and innovation process. Short-term product development is oriented toward concrete customer specifications on the basis of existing technologies. In the medium term (up to 15 years), we create advanced product designs and derive technology requirements from them. And over the long term (up to 2050), our engineers use a technology radar to develop pilot concepts and initiate the development of enabling technologies. The basis of this technology process is MTU’s culture of innovation, which we cultivate with targeted initiatives. One of these is our Innovation Engine, a Group-wide innovation management concept that we launched in the reporting year. As part of our Innovation Engine initiative, we regularly hold events such as the Ideation Challenge through which we gather and evaluate ideas from employees, which are related to a specific field of innovation.
In 2018, we invested EUR 201.2 million (2017: EUR 199.7 million) in research research and development. R&D as a proportion of revenues was 4.4%. A large portion of research and development spending goes toward improving the environmental sustainability of aircraft engines (lower fuel consumption, weight reduction, lower CO2 emissions, noise reduction). MTU employs some 1,100 engineering specialists around the world who work on the solutions of tomorrow.
Strong research pipeline: We are currently working on about 150 technology projects from all departments. These also address the environmental compatibility of engines.
Our system of intellectual property management ensures that we protect our extensive technological expertise. On average, MTU employees file 400 patents and make about 200 invention disclosure reports each year. At the end of 2018, MTU’s patent portfolio encompassed 3,595 property rights, primarily in key areas such as manufacturing, compressors and turbines.
To sustain MTU’s technological expertise, it is important to be adequately plugged into the research landscape. We maintain a network of some 100 universities, research institutes, and companies around the world. MTU is involved in all major national and European research programs that push the development of ecologically efficient engine technologies for aviation. These programs bring together researchers from a wide range of manufacturers and universities. In addition, MTU cooperates directly with numerous universities and research institutions and maintains several centers of competence at selected German universities, which are devoted to specific research topics.
Our research map
Key areas of research: Examples
Virtual engine & digital twin: Digitalization at MTU
We launched the Group-wide MTU 4.0 initiative in order to utilize the potential of digitalization for all areas of our work. With our Digital Transformation Program, we take into account the entire product lifecycle, from development to production to maintenance. The use of simulation tools in materials design and product manufacturing is one of the program’s focuses, but the digital twin is also taking initial shape in models.
→ Learn more about our Digital Transformation Program
Additive manufacturing: Engine parts out of the 3D printer
In 2018, MTU stepped up its commitment to additive manufacturing and established a separate department to pool all related activities, from design to industrial-scale production. This should allow us to increase our lead in this highly promising manufacturing technology. Experts predict that by 2030, no less than 15% of an engine will consist of additively manufactured parts. Besides opening up new possibilities in engine design, the processes require less material, thus conserving resources. We are currently one of the world’s top patent holders for additive manufacturing processes.
→ Where we are already using additive processes and what we have planned next
Taking off with new technologies: NextGen geared turbofan
For just under five years, MTU joined 34 partners in intensive research as part of ENOVAL, an EU technology program. The result was newly developed technologies for turbofan engines that cut CO2 emissions by up to 5% and noise emissions by up to 1.3 decibels. When these figures are extrapolated to a medium-haul airliner such as the Airbus A320, the result is 1,200 metric tons less CO2 per year—the same amount generated by the annual energy consumption of 325 average households. The new technologies are scheduled to take to the skies as early as 2025.
→ More information about the ENOVAL program
MTU’s climate strategy: Environmental targets for the next few decades
Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of our time. It is generally accepted that CO2 emissions caused by human activity are largely responsible for global warming. According to the International Energy Agency, global air traffic is responsible for some 2.7% of CO2 emissions around the world (data from 2015). MTU has made environmental protection a key focus of its sustainability efforts and pursues specific goals, particularly for products, as the vast majority of CO2 emissions over a product’s entire lifecycle occur during its service life.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that the climate impact of air traffic is due mainly to CO2 emissions, ozone production as a consequence of NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions, and the formation of contrails and cirrus clouds. Of these, the greatest impact on the climate comes from CO2 emissions. For MTU, the greatest potential lies in reducing greenhouse gases by developing engines that are more energy efficient. New combustor concepts can significantly reduce NOx emissions. Since the combustor is not one of MTU’s commercial aviation components, we can make only an indirect contribution to avoiding nitrogen oxides by improving efficiency. Contrails and cirrus clouds have an impact on the climate; depending on the weather conditions, they are generated at higher flight altitudes. They can be mitigated by flying on different paths or at lower altitude—part of the responsibility of air traffic management. In the long term, new engine concepts can further reduce the climate impact. MTU is currently researching a new engine concept that significantly reduces both nitrogen oxide emissions and the formation of contrails.
The aviation industry is characterized by long product cycles, with aircraft engines as a rule spending 30 years in service before they are decommissioned. Goals to produce more eco-efficient engines therefore have a long-term perspective and are established in memoranda of understanding by the aviation stakeholders (airlines, aviation industry, research, aviation authorities). In Europe, goals aimed at cutting fuel consumption as well as CO2 and noise emissions are defined in the SRIA, which forms the basis for all national and European technology programs as well as for the MTU Clean Air Engine Agenda (Claire).
The Clean Air Engine Agenda, our in-house roadmap for the development of engine programs, sets our own eco-efficiency targets through to 2050. These targets are derived from the SRIA. Due to the long-term approach to improving the aviation industry’s environmental performance, we set no annual targets for eco-efficient engines and collect no corresponding performance indicators.
SRIA and Claire agenda targets for reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
SRIA and Claire agenda targets for reducing noise emissions
Next climate target 2030: Claire Stage 2
The next MTU goal is set for 2030 and intends to reduce the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of engines by 25%. Aircraft noise emissions (including engines) are to be reduced by 50%, or 10 decibels (base year in each case 2000, target values per passenger kilometer). The second stage of Claire will be implemented on the basis of the geared turbofan, which will be developed into an ultra-high bypass engine in the next generation. MTU is already working on the preliminary design of this engine. We are advancing the requisite technologies for this generation of engines within the German national aviation research program LuFo and European technology programs. These technologies are being further developed in collaboration with partners in initiatives such as the EU’s Clean Sky program, until they are mature enough to be applied in product development. One important related research program (ENOVAL) was successfully completed in 2018.
→ What we achieved with Claire 2 in 2018
Propulsion concepts for 2050: Claire Stage 3
The year 2050 has already begun for us: our experts, together with universities, have started work on the third stage of the Clean Air Engine Agenda (Claire 3). Our goals are ambitious: we want to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 40% and noise by as much as 65%. This will involve the use of completely new engine architectures. MTU kicked off its first specific projects for this in 2018 and is pursuing two different concepts:
- heat engines with novel cyclic processes beyond conventional gas turbines
- hybrid-electric propulsion systems
With the power of plants, wind and sun: Sustainable kerosene
Sustainable fuels are essential for achieving climate protection goals in aviation. MTU is committed to the introduction of sustainable kerosene. It is advocating for this through the Bauhaus Luftfahrt think tank and the Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany (aireg), an association involving airlines, manufacturers and research institutes. The aim is for 10% of the kerosene used in Germany to come from alternative raw materials by 2025. This corresponds to an annual requirement of 1.1 million metric tons of fuel. The first manufacturing processes have been matured and several alternative fuels have been approved for flight operations. These drop-in fuels can be mixed with conventional kerosene, and they meet the high quality and safety requirements of aviation: in view of the range the aircraft must cover, fuels must have very high energy density, a high flashpoint and a low freezing point. Temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius prevail at cruising altitude.
Larger quantities of sustainable kerosene are already produced by hydrogenating vegetable oils (HEFA = hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids). HEFA biokerosene complies with the specifications for fossil kerosene and has been used successfully. Analyses of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts are also available. In order to ensure that biofuels actually offer advantages for the climate, since 2018 they have had to demonstrate a greenhouse gas reduction of at least 60% compared to fossil fuels, in accordance with the European Union’s renewable energy directive.
Research activities are currently focused on non-biogenic processes, especially power-to-liquid processes. For these, hydrogen is first produced by electrolysis from water using electricity from wind power or solar power plants. The raw materials for the production of the desired liquid fuel are obtained by means of the proven Fischer-Tropsch synthesis together with carbon dioxide from the air, which the hydrogen converts into carbon monoxide. Another interesting manufacturing process is being investigated in the SOLAR-JET project, in which MTU participated. For the first time, researchers have produced aviation fuel from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. The advantage of these engineered manufacturing processes is that the alternative fuel is based on almost unlimited resources.
A much-discussed topic concerning the future of aviation is electric flight. MTU is also looking at this issue, collaborating with research partners to conduct studies on all conceivable concepts in order to evaluate them and be prepared for any such developments. The key findings are that current technology is still several decades away from battery-electric passenger aircraft the size of an A320. If development of battery storage capacity continues to advance at 5% annually, battery-electric regional aircraft might be possible in 30 years. Concepts have been drawn up for batteries with the necessary capacity to power short- and medium-haul aircraft, but these will require a few more decades of development to put into practice. At present there are no known battery concepts that would provide the capacity sufficient for long-haul aircraft.
Hybrid propulsion concepts that combine electric motors, generators, gas turbines and batteries are opening up completely new possibilities in aircraft design and propulsion technology. They will continue to use kerosene, a fuel with high energy density for greater range. MTU is already looking into these propulsion concepts as part of stage 3 of its Clean Air Engine Agenda. We want to collaborate with partners to investigate hybrid-electric or all-electric powertrains for air taxis or 19-seater aircraft.