Thermal power and propulsion engineering have been at the very core of Cranfield’s research, innovation and education since the foundation of the College of Aeronautics in 1946. The activity since then has grown into a world-renowned Centre of Excellence that encompasses advanced MSc and PhD postgraduate studies, specialised applied research, a large portfolio of Continuing Professional Development courses and unique in the academic sector, industry-scale experimental facilities.

Centre of Excellence

The Centre for Propulsion and Thermal Power Engineering is around 80 staff strong (including visiting academics) and one of the largest research and education activities within the University. The activity spans across land, off-shore, marine, air and space power and propulsion applications, with a particular specialisation in gas turbine engineering. We believe there is a very bright future for gas turbines for power and propulsion, due to the fundamental changes resulting from the need to protect the environment. These changes, which bring about several exciting technology developments, are firmly embedded in our research and education delivery. This is a time of deep change that will produce a vast demand for new talent.

To that end, our activity is characterised by a very close integration of taught and short course education and research, with more than 100 students attending the internationally recognised Thermal Power and Propulsion MSc course each year, and more than 80 full-time and part-time PhD students. Key to the success of the Centre has been the quality of our teaching, the calibre of our research and technical staff, our numerical and analytical skills, as well as our large-scale experimental activity housed in our Gas Turbine Laboratories.

There is a sea change taking place with a fundamental aim to protect the environment while protecting the socioeconomic benefits we are currently experiencing – find out more. Key to this is the conception, development, certification, commissioning, deployment, operation and maintenance of advanced thermal power and production concepts and equipment.  Our team is at the heart of this revolution in space, air, land and sea thermal power and propulsion applications. These include hydrogen use in space, air, land and sea, supercritical CO2 cycles and many other disruptive ideas being taught, researched, analysed and tested by staff and students in the Centre.

Expertise and facilities

Thermal Power and Propulsion MSc

Our Centre hosts perhaps the world’s largest MSc programme focused on propulsion and power systems for land, off-shore, marine, air and space. The course is globally unique and internationally renowned for its industrial projects and double-degree programmes. There are two annual intakes of the course (in October and March) due to its immense popularity. The course typically attracts more than 15 different nationalities every year.

Students on the Thermal Power and Propulsion MSc are expected to undertake research work in conjunction with our many industrial partnerships and, to that end, they are allocated an academic and industrial supervisor. Several student projects are carried out under the aegis of the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre (UTC) hosted by the Centre, but others take place with other organisations and research collaborations. Students attending the course also have the benefit of access to our state-of-the-art laboratories and our Gas Turbine Strip & Build Lab.

There are various scholarship and bursary schemes, offered by the Centre, to help student enrol in the course. Find out more about available scholarships and bursaries.

The Centre strives to provide a steady stream of high-calibre engineers into industry and therefore is the first choice for several large OEMs as well as SMEs for student recruitment.

Doctoral research

The Centre has a very large doctoral community, with typically more than 70 doctoral candidates currently registered. There are substantial collaborative programmes with leading EU universities and national research establishments, industry and government. This provides a scale of activity to ensure a long-term commitment to emerging technology trends and innovation. The Centre’s in-house performance simulation tools, developed over decades, and optimisation methodologies for the whole operating envelope, life and environmental impact have formed the basis of much of the research. During the last decade or more, there has been a considerable focus on novel airframes and novel propulsion and power systems, often in the context of enhanced environmental performance and climate change. A significant part of the Centre's research focuses on developing more advanced and comprehensive simulation models, often linked within multi-disciplinary, highly-integrated simulation frameworks. These now increasingly address techno-economic, environment and risk assessment (TERA) issues. These models have been widened to cover a range of circumstances (from power generation to aerospace, including urban mobility), and the detail involved within the models has been progressively increased to include several aspects of the operational envelope of the ‘super-system’ and its sub-systems. In an uncertain and changing world, the increasing competence and emphasis on TERA simulations provides a useful ‘agility in scoping studies’. It is very pleasing to note that several studies are being performed with ‘customised’ TERA tools, to assess the environmental impact of current and future technologies. Other studies seek to extend the models to include the influence of various regulatory policies, or the economic impact of new technology step-changes on the manufacturer and operator.

Short courses

The Centre runs an extensive short course programme that has offerings for the whole power plant, the components and specific aspects of some applications. We offer an extensive portfolio of gas turbine continuing professional development. In addition to the range of open courses offered here at Cranfield, we can also develop bespoke courses tailored to specific needs and even deliver courses online. Our analytical and testing abilities cover research areas including:

  • Gas turbine design, testing, diagnostics, monitoring and performance;
  • Component design and assessment;
  • Component lifing;
  • Engine and turbomachinery aerodynamics;
  • Techno-environmental and economic risk analysis (TERA);
  • Multi-disciplinary design optimisation;
  • Experimental and computational methods;
  • Powerplant integration.

A collaboration has been established with the ISABE (International Society for Airbreathing Engines) to run courses alongside the ISABE biannual conference.

For more information on available courses see below.