Engine maker CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aviation and the French company Snecma, has created the LEAP engine -- an acronym for "leading edge aviation propulsion" that the company hopes reflects just how innovative the new aircraft component is.
LEAP has many futuristic features, including a 3-D-printed nozzle, the part of the plane responsible for burning fuel.
LEAP incorporates another first; the engine''s fan blade is made from a material called Ceramic Matrix Composite. Essentially, it is ceramic that is as tough as steel, although unlike metal, it can withstand extreme temperatures.
More important, it is lighter than any alloy previously used. The manufacturer says the material used in the fan blades and other components makes a plane 1,000 pounds lighter than normal.
"LEAP reduces fuel burn by 15% over its predecessor engine. That adds up to several million dollars saved per year per plane," said GE Aviation spokesman Rick Kennedy.
"This technology is actually enabling us to create designs that wouldn''t physically be possible to make with standard conventional machining," said Gareth Richards, LEAP''s program manager.