CASTOR Chair: Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse and ISAE-SUPAERO, a Win-Win Partnership

Available online :

• The official signing of the CASTOR industrial chair between Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse and ISAE-SUPAERO took place on the Institute’s campus on Tuesday, July 9.
• This research partnership contributes to research in low-carbon aircraft.
• The academic and industrial heads of the chair, Nicolas Binder (ISAE-SUPAERO) and Laurent Lachassagne (Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse), explain in more detail.

It’s official! The industrial chair between Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse and ISAE-SUPAERO was signed on Tuesday, July 9 on the Institute’s campus, in the presence of the technical teams, Nathalie Duquesne, CEO of Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse, and Olivier Lesbre, President of ISAE-SUPAERO.
On this occasion, the floor was given to the academic leaders to present the objectives and provide an update on the progress of the Chair, which was launched on January 1, 2024.

Professor Nicolas Binder is Head of the Turbomachinery and Propulsion group in the [Department of Aerodynamics, Energetics, and Propulsion]->] at ISAE-SUPAERO and holder of the CASTOR Chair.

Laurent Lachassagne is the Head of the Aerodynamics, Thermal, and Acoustics Group at Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse SAS and holder of the CASTOR Chair.

What are the objectives of the joint research work performed by Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse and ISAE-SUPAERO as part of the CASTOR Chair?

Laurent Lachassagne: Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse is a recognised supplier of air conditioning systems for aircraft. Our systems are essential to passenger comfort and safety. As part of this Chair, we are studying radial turbomachinery in order to make it more efficient and therefore less energy-consuming. Optimising the aerodynamics of our turbomachinery, thanks to our joint expertise, will enable us to offer aircraft manufacturers air conditioning systems that consume less energy and help to reduce the CO2 emissions of future aircraft.

In addition to air conditioning, we also hope that this new generation of turbomachinery will bring us significant gains in terms of supplying air to the fuel cells used for electrical generation or propulsion on future aircraft.

Nicolas Binder: There are two types of radial turbomachinery: turbines and compressors. What makes our Turbomachinery and Propulsion team at ISAE-SUPAERO unique is that we have the same level of expertise in these two components. The team has been working on turbines for more than 30 years, and on compressors for 20 years, and publishes in the best journals in the scientific community devoted to turbomachinery. Our support can therefore have a major impact on the research and development activities of Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse.

CASTOR, "Chair for Radial Turbomachinery Aerodynamics"

In 2024, ISAE-SUPAERO and Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse strengthened a long-standing collaboration to develop and improve methods and tools for the aerodynamic design of turbomachinery. This partnership takes the form of an industrial chair called CASTOR, ‘Chair for Radial Turbomachinery Aerodynamics.’ This public-private research partnership, co-financed by the French National Research Agency (ANR), is scheduled to run for 4 years. For the two entities, which have been partners for 25 years, the Chair represents an opportunity to intensify their collaboration and to structure a joint research programme in support of research in low-carbon aircraft.

Your work with the Chair began on January 1, 2024. What has happened since the beginning of the year?

Nicolas Binder: Our research team has recruited a doctoral student, a post-doctoral student, and a technician for the test bench, and we will be recruiting two other doctoral students between now and the end of the year.

In terms of research, we started with the compressors. We are currently experimenting with a particular compressor architecture, different from what Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse usually does. We received the machine and put it on our test bench a month ago. We want to find out how this compressor behaves when it becomes unstable. It should be pointed out that the flow of air in a turbomachine is one of the most complex aerodynamic situations you can find! As for the turbines, we will soon be setting up the test benches, and are already working on the measurement methods to be deployed.

Laurent Lachassagne: Under the support of Viviane Ciais, our aerodynamics expert and technical coordinator of the Chair for Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse, several specialists from our teams are working with the Institute’s research team. We help them to familiarise themselves with the challenges of turbomachinery stage design. We make sure they understand the technological challenges we face and our expectations. Thanks to our experience, we can combine theory and reality, which is essential for the progress of our work. Finally, we supply ISAE-SUPAERO with turbomachinery "made by Liebherr" for testing on ISAE-SUPAERO’s finely instrumented test benches.
What is so special and important about this partnership, both for Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse and for ISAE-SUPAERO?

Laurent Lachassagne: It’s about strengthening a long-standing partnership that’s already working well. The Chair will enable Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse to mobilise and finance over the long term the cutting-edge skills present in the ISAE-SUPAERO research laboratories, in service of our future products. Thanks to this new collaboration, Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse will be able to continue to offer key technologies for the decarbonisation of aviation, with more efficient air systems for future aircraft that consume as little energy as possible.
We are also very pleased with the local nature of this partnership and the stronger link that has been created with ISAE-SUPAERO. Students at the institute may well be future employees who have already received tailor-made training in our products.

Nicolas Binder: This partnership gives us access to the expertise of the Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse teams as well as to the company’s research resources, particularly through its test centre. In addition, this Chair symbolises the recognition of the relevance and applicability of the work of the ISAE-SUPAERO research teams by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation. Lastly, thanks to the substantial funding involved, the Institute will be able to strengthen its experimental and numerical capabilities.

Focus on the PTM Test Bench

The PTM (Petites TurboMachines) test bench enables the operation and measurement of turbines and compressors with a rotor diameter of 2 to 20 cm, corresponding to a power range in excess of 100 hp for certain stages. Turbine inlet air temperatures can be as high as 250°C. Compressor inlet pressure can be lowered to levels equivalent to an altitude of 10,000 m. Sensors of various types are installed at strategic positions, for example just behind the rotating parts of the stage, in order to characterise the speed and orientation of the flow and monitor its evolution during operation. This measurement is made difficult by the complex shape of radial machines and by their small size, which means that measuring instruments have to be miniaturised.

About Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse

Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse SAS develops, manufactures, and maintains air systems for the aerospace industry. Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse is a Tier 1 system manufacturer and one of the world leaders in its field, supporting its aircraft, helicopter, and airline customers in their projects. The company employs more than 1,600 people at two sites in Toulouse and Campsas (Tarn-et-Garonne) and generated sales worth €690m in 2023. Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse is part of the aerospace and rail division of the Liebherr group.

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