Thrust specific fuel consumption

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Thrust specific fuel consumption (TSFC) or sometimes simply specific fuel consumption, SFC, is an engineering term that is used to describe the fuel efficiency of an engine design with respect to thrust output. TSFC may also be thought of as fuel consumption (grams/second) per unit of thrust (kilonewtons, or kN). It is thus thrust-specific, meaning that the fuel consumption is divided by the thrust.

TSFC or SFC for thrust engines (e.g. turbojets, turbofans, ramjets, rocket engines, etc.) is the mass of fuel needed to provide the net thrust for a given period e.g. lb/(h·lbf) (pounds of fuel per hour-pound of thrust) or g/(s·kN) (grams of fuel per second-kilonewton). Mass of fuel is used rather than volume (gallons or litres) for the fuel measure since it is independent of temperature.[1]

Specific fuel consumption of air-breathing jet engines at their maximum efficiency varies more or less inversely with speed, which means that the fuel consumption per mile or per km can be a more appropriate comparison for aircraft that travel at very different speeds.

This figure is inversely proportional to specific impulse.

Significance of SFC[edit]

SFC is dependent on engine design, but differences in the SFC between different engines using the same underlying technology tend to be quite small. Increasing overall pressure ratio on jet engines tends to decrease SFC.

In practical applications, other factors are usually highly significant in determining the fuel efficiency of a particular engine design in that particular application. For instance, in aircraft, turbine (jet and turboprop) engines are typically much smaller and lighter than equivalently powerful piston engine designs, both properties reducing the levels of drag on the plane and reducing the amount of power needed to move the aircraft. Therefore, turbines are more efficient for aircraft propulsion than might be indicated by a simplistic look at the table below.

SFC varies with throttle setting, altitude and climate. For jet engines, flight speed also has a significant effect upon SFC; SFC is roughly proportional to air speed (actually exhaust velocity), but speed along the ground is also proportional to air speed. Since work done is force times distance, mechanical power is force times speed. Thus, although the nominal SFC is a useful measure of fuel efficiency, it should be divided by speed to get a way to compare engines that fly at different speeds.

For example, Concorde cruised at Mach 2.05 with its engines giving an SFC of 1.195 lb/(lbf·h) (see below); this is equivalent to an SFC of 0.51 lb/(lbf·h) for an aircraft flying at Mach 0.85, which would be better than even modern engines; the Olympus 593 was the world's most efficient jet engine.[2][3] However, Concorde ultimately has a heavier airframe and, due to being supersonic, is less aerodynamically efficient, i.e., the lift to drag ratio is far lower. In general the total fuel burn of a complete aircraft is of far more importance to the customer.


Specific Impulse (by weight)
Specific Impulse (by mass)
Effective exhaust velocity
Specific Fuel Consumption
SI =X seconds =9.8066 X N·s/kg =9.8066 X m/s =101,972 (1/X) g/(kN·s) / {g/(kN·s)=s/m}
Imperial units =X seconds =X lbf·s/lb =32.16 X ft/s =3,600 (1/X) lb/(lbf·h)

Typical values of SFC for thrust engines[edit]

Specific fuel consumption (SFC), specific impulse, and effective exhaust velocity numbers for various rocket and jet engines.
Engine type Scenario SFC in lb/(lbf·h) SFC in g/(kN·s) Specific impulse (s) Effective exhaust velocity (m/s)
NK-33 rocket engine Vacuum 10.9 309 331[4] 3,240
SSME rocket engine Space shuttle vacuum 7.95 225 453[5] 4,423
Ramjet Mach 1 4.5 127 800 7,877
J-58 turbojet SR-71 at Mach 3.2 (Wet) 1.9 53.8 1,900 18,587
Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 Concorde Mach 2 cruise (Dry) 1.195[6] 33.8 3,012 29,553
CF6-80C2B1F turbofan Boeing 747-400 cruise 0.605[6] 17.1 5,950 58,400
General Electric CF6 turbofan Sea level 0.307[6] 8.696 11,700 115,000

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Specific Fuel Consumption
  2. ^ Supersonic Dream
  3. ^ "The turbofan engine", page 5. SRM University, Department of aerospace engineering
  4. ^ Astronautix NK33
  5. ^ Astronautix SSME
  6. ^ a b c "Data on Large Turbofan Engines". Aircraft Aerodynamics and Design Group. Stanford University. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 

External links[edit]