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State-owned lab unveils Russias first turboelectric engine concept
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A state-owned research institute revealed plans at the MAKS air show to build Russia’s first turboelectric aircraft engine using lightweight semiconductors provided by a Russian start-up company.

While waiting for a funding go-ahead decision later this year by the federal government, the Central Institute of Aviation Motors (CIAM) displayed a mock-up of the 500kW-class concept engine.

The engine would be configured with a gas turbine to supply power to an electric motor, which drives a six-bladed propeller, says Mikhail Gordin, general director of CIAM. A back-up battery would supply power if the gas turbine or motor fails.

Although the configuration is relatively conventional, the design of the power distribution would be unique. Most aerospace companies working on electric engines have avoided superconductors, due to concerns about weight and potential electromagnetic interference effects on other electronics.

But the CIAM project intends to use a new superconductor material produced by SuperOx, a Russian-based start-up. The SuperOx material is lightweight but scaleable to high-power operations, Gordin says. It should also be possible to mitigate interference effects, but that needs to be tested in the demonstration programme, he adds.

If funded later this year, CIAM hopes to test the 500kW demonstrator on a flying testbed within three years, followed by a demonstration of a 2MW-class system to power a 19-seat aircraft, Gordin says. The power output could be provided by four 500kW engines or a single 2MW system, he adds.

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