What Is a Turbofan?

Modern aircraft are incredibly powerful with their ability to travel great distances across sea and land at incredible speeds thanks to the invention of the jet engine. Initially, the only jet engines available on the market were turbojets; however, today, the most common type of jet engine is the turboprop, that of which is used to power the Boeing 787 to the Airbus A850, some of the most popular commercial jets. These propulsion systems burn both fuel and air by moving larger volumes of air at lower speeds to increase efficiency compared to the turboprop. For your better understanding of the driving force behind most modern air travel, this blog will explore the ins and outs of a turbofan jet engine.

In a process known as combustion, turbofans burn both fuel and air in their combustion chamber to drive a fan, that of which is not present in the turbojet. The fan, in turn, generates most of the propulsion force needed to push the aircraft forward by forcing air backwards at incredibly high speeds. While the fan does the majority of the work, the process of combustion adds additional driving force to the engine. The process of combustion involves burning fuel and air to create pressurized exhaust gasses, which are then ejected out of the engine to generate propulsion. The fan in a turbofan may feature a single stage or it may feature multiple stages. Regardless, it works in tandem with the combustion process to push the aircraft forward with enough thrust that it can enter and maintain flight.

Within the jet engine category of turbofans, there are different types of turbofan designs with unique features and functions. One category of turbofans are low-bypass turbofans, those of which are typically restricted to high-speed jet airplanes, such as military jets and supersonic jets. This design has a low-bypass ratio and a high pressure ratio which create high exhaust velocity. Another category of turbojet engines are afterburning turbofans which have a low-to-medium bypass ratio. This design makes use of a combustor to burn fuel from the fuel injectors. Lastly, one can procure high-bypass turbofans which are characterized by high-bypass ratios. These are the most common engines of the three categories as they are powerful, efficient, and reliable, and they have existed for over fifty years.

In modern aircraft, nearly 90% of the air taken in by the jet engine passes directly through the engine to generate thrust without mixing it with fuel or igniting it. The simple force of this air through the fan at the front of turbofan engines does the majority of the lifting work which is why you no longer see flames behind a jet engine. Since turbofans push air mainly around the core of the engine, they are much quieter than previous turbojet engines, producing less vibrations, and perform with greater efficiency.

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