Presented by University of Cambridge, with support from Rolls-Royce plc


Hands-on at this exhibit

  • Use a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to examine the structure of real materials.
  • Watch ‘shape memory alloys’ return to a set shape upon heating.
  • Explore how atoms are arranged in metals using snooker balls.


Atomic-level engineering is at the forefront of modern, greener jet engine design.

Discover atomic-level engineering for modern jet engine design and the future of aeronautics in this exciting video from the exhibitors.

The increasing demand for more people to fly while reducing carbon emissions is the greatest aeronautical engineering challenge. Efficiency requires engines to run hotter and faster, but the best materials are already running close to their limits. Our exhibit shows how we’re designing metal alloys that are able to withstand the extreme conditions inside the gas turbine engine.

The jet engine is a tough engineering environment. The hot gas stream exceeds 1500⁰C, and the forces on the rotating turbine blades are equivalent to hanging a bus from each one. But to reach the full potential of the engine we must develop new materials to withstand even higher temperatures and stresses. We study how atomic arrangements in metals influence their properties and performance. By engineering the position, size and type of atoms in metal alloys, we can radically change their capability. This knowledge is enabling us to design new materials for modern jet engines.

Lead image: The powerful Trent 1000 jet engine which flies the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The future of aeronautics are engines that run hotter and faster while reducing carbon emissions. Credit: Rolls-Royce plc.