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[Research Proposal


Srinivasan Viswanathan

Development of a High-Order, GPU-Enabled, Navier-Stokes
Solver for Advanced Propeller CFD Analyses


The possible fuel saving that can be achieved by an advanced propeller over an equivalent
technology turbofan engine operating at competitive speeds and altitudes is estimated at
30%. To-date, however, potential cabin noise problems, moderate aviation fuel costs, and
the perceived prejudice of the general public towards propeller driven aircraft, have
hindered the introduction of advanced propellers on large commercial aircraft. In order to
further improve the acoustic performance of the advanced propeller, it is necessary to fully
understand the complex flow patterns occurring on the blade and hub surfaces and in the
general surrounding flow field.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is ideally suited for this task and has been deployed
with some success to-date. However, the CFD solvers typically used are based on second-
order numerical methods. This means that they contain a limiting intrinsic error which
makes them very dissipative and unsuitable for tracking the propagation of shed blade-tip
vortices. This project addresses this limitation through the development of a high-order
Navier-Stokes solver for advanced propeller analysis. Critically, the algorithm will also
leverage the processing power of graphical processing units (GPUs). The solver will facilitate
improved advanced-propeller design and the full potential of the advanced propeller being

To develop a high-order, GPU-enabled, Navier-Stokes solver for advanced-propeller CFD

1. To perform a comprehensive review of high-order methods, e.g. k-exact, spectral
difference etc.
2. To become expert in GPU programming and in the use of CUDA, a GPU-programming
3. To identify the most suitable high-order method for advanced propeller flow field
4. To implement and validate the method first in 2D for aerofoil analysis, then in 3D for
wing analysis and finally for advanced propeller flow field prediction.
5. To demonstrate the superior performance of the solver for advanced propeller
analysis and to disseminate the results to the project to industry and academia.
Literature Review
Computational fluid dynamics can be employed as an analysis tool alongside wind tunnel
testing. Results suggested that unsteady RANS implementation to estimate the flow the
propeller is significantly accurate (6).

Although Direct Numerical Simulations can be employed to solve turbulent flow, it fails to
exhibit efficiency when employed over complex structures as engine with four propeller
blades. Large-Eddy Simulation, although is less extensive in terms of computation, the
significantly require computational effort (7).Navier stokes equations solver are capable of
calculating both laminar and turbulent flow over a flat plate, demonstrating its capability to
accurately capture boundary layer behaviour (1)(2).

The meshing of propeller blade accurately and to a finer extend is extremely tricky (8). While
computing the flow field, challenges occurs with modelling the turbulence properly,
identifying appropriate algorithm and grid generate for more precise results. The meshing
of the propeller blades depends on factors such as the strongly varying leading edge
curvature (in the blade section’s plane) between the hub and the tip due to large variations
of the radial thickness distribution, the blade leading edge curvature related to the radial
distribution of chord length, the introduction of sweep and the selected stacking procedure,
and the strong blade twist that distorts the blade leading edge around the blade axis (9).

Symmetric separation vortices over slender bodies may become asymmetric as the angle of
attack is increased beyond a certain value, causing asymmetric forces even at symmetric
flight conditions. Asymmetrical pair of vortices strengths increases as we move backward
from the tip and if the slenderness ratios are increased then exhibited side force is also
increased (5).

Aircraft design requires the frequent usage of numerical simulation which essentially helps
to find solutions that provide an optimum design for the desired range of application in much
more economical as well as an ecological sense. Environmental concerns such as fuel
consumption and noise pollution play an important role along with performance, safe flight
operations, flight handling conditions, weight, and manoeuvrability while design am aircraft.
This makes the aerodynamic and structural design of aircraft more challenging. Propeller
driven engines such as turboprop and turbofan engines 10 to 40% increase in propeller
efficiency thereby reducing the fuel consumption.

Design of propellers are complex in terms of fluid structure, as it experiences complex flow
such as wing vortex flow and fluid-noise interaction. Aeronautical industry found a break
through, when massive use of 3D CFD was initialized. CFD is defined as the set of
methodologies that enables the computer to provide us with a numerical simulation of fluid
flows. The application extended from simplified up to the most complex configurations and
geometrical shapes due to step by step routine usage. The CFD application today has
revolutionized the process of aerodynamic design by joining the wind tunnel and flight test
as primary tools for design analysis in the aircraft industry. In spite of individual strength
and limitations, Flight testing involves tremendous amount money; modern aircraft
development is focused instead on the use of CFD and wind tunnel. CFD provides
complementary strategy modelling providing important details of physical phenomenon
such as pressure fields and flow conditions around the model.

In CFD, a discrete domain is used a grid instead of continuous domain. In the continuous
domain, each flow variable is defined at every point in the domain. CFD can provide an
insight understanding as to the source of undesirable flight characteristics, irrelevant of
observation in subscale model testing or in the full scale configuration. Viscous flow
computations for cruise conditions have become common place, while the non-linear effects
that take place at high angles of attack are much more difficult to predict.

CFD has an upper hand over the others as it has the ability to inexpensively produce a small
number of simulations leading to understanding necessary for design. CFD can be used to
predict the necessary geometry shape changes required to optimize certain flow
characteristics or a payoff functions, which is called as “inverse deign” or optimization mode.
Effective use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is key ingredient in successful design
of modern commercial aircraft. The application of CFD to the design of commercial aircraft
has revolutionized the process of aerodynamic design.

Steps involved in CFD analysis
The standard steps involved in CFD analysis are: Pre- processing, Flow solution and post-
processing. CFD analysis begins with a mathematical modelling of the physical problem. The
governing equations of fluid dynamics forms the base for CFD. Conservation of mass,
momentum, and energy which are cumulatively represented by Navier- Stokes equation, is
applied throughout the region of interest in integral equation form. Simplifying assumptions
are then applied in order to make the problem tractable (e.g., steady-state, incompressible,
inviscid, two-dimensional). Appropriate initial and boundary conditions for the problem are
then provided. CFD applies numerical methods called discretization, that the domain is
discretized into finite volume or cells. The discretized domain is termed as grid or cell. This
leads to the development of a set of discrete algebraic equations. The equations are then
solved numerically (on a computer) for the flow field variables at each node or cell using
appropriate numerical techniques. System of equations are solved simultaneously to provide
solution. The solution is then processed to obtain flow properties such as lift, drag,
separation, pressure loss, heat transfer, torque, etc.

Advantages of CFD
CFD simulations are comparatively inexpensive, and costs are likely to decrease as
computers are becoming more powerful. The time frame required for execution of CFD
simulations is comparatively less. CFD provides the ability to theoretically simulate any
physical condition.

Limitation of CFD
CFD solution are purely based on the physical model of real flow process hence the accuracy
of the solutions depends on the accuracy of the physical model. Numerical error can be added
invariably while solving them by the computer. The result entirely depends on the boundary
conditions that are provide earlier.

GPU-accelerated computing is that the use of a graphics process unit (GPU) beside a
mainframe to accelerate scientific and engineering applications. GPU-accelerated computing
provides unprecedented application performance by offloading compute-intensive parts of
the appliance to the GPU, whereas the rest of the code still runs on the mainframe. From a
user\'s perspective, applications merely run considerably quicker.

Advanced Propellers
Advanced propellers achieve considerable fuel savings when compared to their equivalent
turbofan engines at competitive speeds and altitudes. Propeller driven engines are
advantages as they have low take-off and landing performances, good low speed
performances. But the employment of advanced propeller has been hindered due to
potential cabin noise and less awareness among the general public towards propeller driven
aircraft on commercial level.

In aircraft industry, CFD is employed in aerodynamic design as well as aerodynamic data
production in order to investigate the flow features and specific alongside wind tunnel
testing and flight testing. CFD finds a major application as optimization tool, in order to
estimate the most efficient and effective design of the aircraft or a component of the aircraft.
Most exiting CFD codes are analysis tools in which for a given a configuration, the codes
predict aerodynamic characteristics of the configuration. In airplane design the tool that can
provide design capability (i.e., given airplane aerodynamic characteristics, the codes
generate realistic geometry) finds more preference.

To-date CFD solvers developed specifically for advanced propeller flow field prediction
employ second-order numerical methods only. No high-order method has been employed
due to several reasons. First, low-order methods were reasonably successful in meeting the
requirement of propeller designers with a reasonable cost in human and computer
resources. Second, high-order methods were generally not as robust as low-order methods,
convergence to a steady state could be difficult, and time-accurate calculations were
expensive. Third, only in the recent past has significant research been conducted on high-
order methods once the limitations of low-order methods were fully appreciated. The
problems associated with high-order methods have now been adequately addressed. The
development of a high-order, GPU-enabled, Navier-Stokes solver for advanced propellers
will allow significantly more accurate flow field calculations to be performed which in-turn
will facilitate more accurate aeroacoustic calculations to be performed. This should lead to
improved advanced propeller aerodynamic design and reduced noise.

Research Questions:
1. What is the ideal high-order method for advanced propeller flow field prediction?
2. What order of accuracy is sufficient for highly-resolved advanced propeller flow field
prediction and how does the computational effort change with order of accuracy?
3. How does a high-order method compare with a standard second-order method for
advanced propeller flow field prediction?
4. What improvement in advanced propeller design can be achieved using a high-order
5. Can the acoustic signature of advanced propellers be significantly reduced?

A literature study on high-order methods will first be conducted. The different methods will
be compared and contrasted so that a comprehensive understanding is achieved.
Subsequently, effort will be dedicated to becoming expert in GPU programming and the use
of CUDA. As part of this work an nVIDIA Tesla-based GPU machine will be commissioned.
When both of these tasks are completed the most suitable high-order method for advanced
propeller flow field prediction will be identified based a set of weighted criteria i.e. ease of
implementation, robustness, efficiency and suitability for use with GPUs.
The advanced propeller solver will be developed in a series of sensible steps starting with a
2D aerofoil solver, progressing to a 3D wing solver, and finally culminating with the
development of the 3D propeller solver.
Each of the solvers will be rigorously tested and validated using wind tunnel measurements
e.g. pressure distributions. The results of the advanced propeller analyses will be
disseminated through two international journal papers. It is envisaged that the computing
facilities of the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC) will also be employed.
The project requires a strong background and interest in mathematics, fluid mechanics and
software development. The additional skills and knowledge required will be developed and
acquired during the course of the project. A GPU-based computer will have to be built and
GPU-specific compilers purchased. High quality wind tunnel data, required for solver
validation, is freely available from international research organisations such as NASA,
ONERA, and the DLR.

Significance of Research:
The potential impact is major. This project will:
 Pioneer the use of high-order methods for advanced propeller flow field
 Lead to a step change in the accuracy of advanced propeller flow field predictions.
 Advance the use of GPU-computing in CFD.
 Improve the design process with a tool that can provide high-resolved flow field
predictions in a short time interval.
 Facilitate the improved aerodynamic design and aeroacoustics performance of
the advanced propeller.
 Expedite the return of the propeller as a propulsor for large commercial aircraft
with potential fuel savings of up to 30%.

Research Schedule:
The research schedule is as outlined below:
1. Literature survey of high-order methods
Duration: 6 months
Deliverable: Report on high-order CFD methods

2. Build of GPU-based computer and familiarisation with GPU computing.
Duration: 6 months
Deliverable: Working GPU machine and capability to undertake GPU computing

3. Development/validation of 2D aerofoil solver
Duration: 12 months
Deliverable: High-order, GPU-enabled, Navier-Stokes solver for steady aerofoil

4. Development/validation of steady 3D wing solver
Duration: 10 months
Deliverable: High-order, GPU-enabled, Navier-Stokes solver for steady wing analyses

5. Development /validation of steady 3D advanced propeller solver
Duration: 8 months
Deliverable: High-order, GPU-enabled, Navier-Stokes solver for advanced propeller
flow field prediction under axisymmetric inflow conditions

6. Completion of journal paper for the CFD community
Duration: 1.5 months
Deliverable: International journal paper

7. Completion of thesis
Duration: 3 months
Deliverable: Thesis

8. Completion of journal paper for the aircraft propulsion community
Duration: 1.5 months
Deliverable: International journal paper

1. Boyle, F., Efficient Solution of the Navier-Stokes Equations for Transonic Propeller Flows,
AIAA Paper No. 2003-4083, 21
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Applied Aerodynamics Conference, Orlando, Florida, USA, 2003.
2. Boyle, F., An Efficient Procedure for Viscous Propeller Flow Field Calculations, AIAA Paper
No. 2002-3859, 38
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics /American
Society of Mechanical Engineers/Society of Automotive Engineers/American Society for
Engineering Education Joint Propulsion Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, 2002.
3. Polacsek, C., Spiegel, P., Boyle, F., Eaton, J., Brouwer, H., and Nijboer, R., Aeroacoustic
Computation for High-Speed Propeller-Driven Aircraft, AIAA Paper No. 2000-2086, 6

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics/Confederation of European
Aerospace Societies Conference, Hawaii, USA, 2000.
4. Boyle, F.J., O’Flaherty, M.P., and Eaton, J.A., Validation of Efficient Euler Algorithms for
Advanced Propellers Under Transonic and Subsonic Conditions, AIAA Paper No. 99-3228,
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Applied Aerodynamics
Conference, Norfolk, Virginia, USA, 1999.
5. Boyle, F.J., O’Flaherty, M.P., and Eaton, J.A., Three-Dimensional Euler Solutions for
Axisymmetric and Non-Axisymmetric Advanced Propeller Flows, AIAA Paper No. 99-2386,
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics/American Society of Mechanical
Engineers/Society of Automotive Engineers/American Society for Engineering
Education Joint Propulsion Conference, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1999.
6. Boyle, F.J., O’Flaherty, M.P., and Eaton, J.A., Comparison of PIV Measurements with CFD
Predictions for a High-Speed Propeller, AIAA Paper No. 99-2387, 35
American Institute
of Aeronautics and Astronautics/American Society of Mechanical Engineers/Society of
Automotive Engineers/American Society for Engineering Education Joint Propulsion
Conference, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1999.
7. Amato, M., Boyle, F., Eaton, J.A., and Gardarein, P., Euler/Navier-Stokes Simulation for
Propulsion Airframe Integration of Advanced Propeller Driven Aircraft in the European
Research Programs GEMIN/APIAN, ICAS Paper No. 98-6.10.2, International Council of the
Aeronautical Sciences Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 1998.
8. Boyle, F., “An efficient procedure for viscous propeller flow field calculations,” 38th
AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint propulsion conference and exhibit, AIAA, Indianapolis
(USA), July 2002.
9. Marinus, B., Roger, M., Braembussche, R. V. D., & Bosschaerts, W. (2011). “Truncated
method for propeller noise prediction up to low supersonic helical tip Mach numbers”.
Paper presented at the 15th AIAA/CEAS Aeroacoustics Conference (30th AIAA
Aeroacoustics Conference), 11 - 13 May 2009, Miami, Florida.