Univ. of Southern Mississippi, GE Aviation announce composites research effort

Efforts will focus on increased use of composite materials in GE's GEnx aircraft engine.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and officials from GE Aviation (Cincinnati, Ohio, USA) on June 29 announced a research collaboration with The University of Southern Mississippi for technology and advanced material development in the company's Batesville Composites Operation in Batesville, Miss.

GE's partnership with the Southern Miss School of Polymers and High Performance Materials is focused on the development of composites development processing for the GEnx engine. The world's only jet engine with composite fan blades, fan platforms and fan case, the GEnx engine will power the Boeing 787 and 747-8 aircraft.

“This exciting partnership between GE Aviation and The University of Southern Mississippi combines GE Aviation's expertise with the talent at USM," Governor Haley Barbour said. "These researchers are working together to develop the sophisticated processes and composite materials needed to produce next-generation commercial jet engines. Composite components are the way of the future in commercial aviation, and I am proud that the research and development work needed to build that future is happening right here in Mississippi."

The collaboration is supported with a grant of approximately $2.4 million from the Mississippi Development Authority, the state's lead economic development agency.

"GE's relationship with Mississippi leaders and the state's university system has been outstanding," said David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. "Simply put, we are teaming on unique technologies that ultimately impact future air travel."

The opportunity to be on the leading edge of such industrial developments with global implications reflects the university's focus on research. "Southern Miss has an industry view of research that encourages university and industry linkages. These connections provide meaningful products to our partners while giving our students relevant educational opportunities," said Southern Miss president Martha Saunders. "As a comprehensive research institution, Southern Miss is committed to creating a culture that supports an innovative academic environment while being able to promote economic advancement for our state and region."

GE Aviation has worked closely with the Mississippi Development Authority to develop partnerships with Mississippi universities to assist with the process and material development of products that will be placed at the Batesville Composites Operation in Batesville, Miss.

GE Aviation celebrated the opening of the Batesville facility, its newest greenfield facility, in October 2008 and anticipates expanding the workforce to more than 100 people.  The facility produces and assembles advanced composite engine components which are unique to the aviation industry.

The facility is currently in production of its first two GEnx product lines: fan platforms (installed between the engine's front fan blades) and the assembly of the fan stator unit, a large circular structure that encases the front fan.

Key research thrusts for the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials include marine and aerospace composites, sustainable materials, biomaterials and coatings. The program is supported by numerous federal and private funding agencies, including the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation and Boeing. The School is an international academic leader in the design, synthesis, use, test and formulation of novel polymeric products and holds more than 50 patents.