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Groundbreaking Work in Jet Engine Containment

Groundbreaking Work in Jet Engine Containment Earns Brockman UDRI's Highest Award

Robert Brockman's innovative work in testing high-strength fabrics for jet engine containment have earned him the 2003-2004 Wohlleben-Hochwalt Outstanding Professional Research Award from the University of Dayton Research Institute.

Brockman, a distinguished research engineer in the aerospace mechanics division at UDRI, was recognized at an awards banquet April 7.

Jet engines operate at extremely high rotational speeds - more than 10,000 rpm - and include high-strength metal components. Failure of a rotating component within the engine can result in the release of metal fragments moving at high speed, posing a deadly threat to the aircraft and passengers. To protect the wings, fuselage, flight-critical systems and the crew and passengers from potentially lethal projectiles, all jet engines include additional containment structure surrounding the outside of the engine.

Traditional jet engine containment structures are metal and very heavy, reducing an aircraft's payload and fuel efficiency. In the last decade, containment systems based on high-strength fabrics - such as Kevlar - have been introduced to provide improved protection with reduced weight.

These "soft" containment systems have not yet proved fully viable, however, because of the lack of reliable analytical methods for designing them. Costly testing is needed at every stage of the design and certification processes, because the system's ability to contain failed engine components cannot be predicted.

Because of the significant technical challenges inherent to designing more efficient containment structures, General Electric Aircraft Engines turned to Brockman to assist with the process. By developing an efficient method to simulate the behavior of structural fabric materials subjected to impact damage, Brockman was able to also develop groundbreaking analytical techniques that allowed GE to develop, analyze, test and certify new lightweight woven fabric containment structures.

In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration was sufficiently impressed with UDRI's analytical approach and the correlation with actual test data, that they recently accepted UDRI's analyses in place of engine testing for flight certification of a modified jet engine design.

Since 1981, 24 UDRI researchers have won the Wohlleben-Hochwalt award, which commemorates Brother William Wohlleben, S.M., founder of UD's chemistry and chemical engineering departments, and UD alumnus Ted Hochwalt, a successful researcher for General Motors and the Monsanto Chemical Co. Wohlleben, a mentor of Hochwalt's, set Hochwalt up with a lab at UD in 1925 that sparked the invention of a new type of fire extinguisher and the beginning of the Thomas and Hochwalt Laboratories, which became the research labs of Monsanto Chemical Company.

Moved by Wohlleben and his support for research, Hochwalt created an endowment in 1981 to fund the Wohlleben-Hochwalt Award to recognize excellence in sponsored research at the University of Dayton.

April 8, 2004

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