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Computers & Fluids Vol. 27, No. 3, pp.

407419, 1998
# 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved
Printed in Great Britain
PII: S0045-7930(97)00035-2 0045-7930/98 $19.00 + 0.00




Department of Mechanical Engineering, Hanyang University, Haengdang-dong, Seongdong-ku, Seoul
131-791, Republic of Korea

(Received 18 July 1996; revised 8 July 1997)

AbstractA numerical optimization technique has been developed to determine the optimum propeller
blade shape for eciency improvement. The method satises the constraints of the constant power coef-
cient and the activity factor. A lifting line theory (vortex lattice method) and a lifting surface theory
(3-D panel method) are used to calculate aerodynamic performance parameters of propellers. Both lift-
ing theories use rigid helical wake models. The design variables are twist angle and chord length at mid
points of vortex lattices for vortex lattice method and nodes of panels for the 3-D panel method. The
optimization code is validated by comparing the results with other numerical schemes. Twist angle and
chord length distributions are optimized for various propellers. SR-3 and SR-7 propfan blade shapes
are also optimized using the 3-D panel method for aerodynamic load calculation. # 1998 Elsevier
Science Ltd. All rights reserved


(Xs, Ts, Zs) (XE, YE, ZE) Coordinate of starting and ending points of vortex lattice element
(XCj, YCj, ZCj) Coordinate of collocation point
V Velocity
CP Total power coecient
CT Total thrust coecient
CR Total radial power coecient
cP Sectional power coecient
cT Sectional thrust coecient
C Mean chord length
AF Activity factor
J Advance ratio
gj Inequality constraint
hk Equality constraint
rp A multiplier which denes the magnitude of penalty
H Hessian matrix
I Symmetric positive matrix (unit matrix)
S Search direction
n Normal vector
Vi,j Velocity induced by a vortex line segment located between points i and j
V Induced velocity
R Blade tip radius
r Radius at station r
x Design variable vector
u Velocity of ow in the inertial frame
L Normal vector to helical surface
Vn Normal velocity of blade surface
P Pressure
DP Pressure dierence across upper and lower surfaces
yL y on leading edge
yT on trailing edge
f Pseudo-objective function
F Velocity potential
G Vortex strength, circulation
o, O Rotation velocity
Z Eciency
b Twist angle distribution
a* Search distance
r Radius of helical vortex line
j Spanwise index number
1 Free stream condition
0 Initial value


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408 Jinsoo Cho and Seung-chi Lee

After Rankine developed the momentum theory for marine propellers, a number of methods
were developed for the aerodynamic analysis of rotary wings. Froude used an element theory
and Goldstein developed the vortex theory, which was further extended by Theoderson to a
highly loaded propeller. These methods formed the basis of lifting line and lifting surface the-
ories as explained by Johnson [1]. Rosen and Graber [2] applied the lifting surface theory to
analyze helicopter rotors and Rand and Rosen [3], Chang and Sullivan [4] and Chiu and Peters
[5] used the lifting line theory. Mikkelson et al. [6] showed the reliability of lifting line theory by
comparing the calculated results with measured data and the calculated result using a lifting sur-
face theory. Chang and Sullivan [4], McVeigh and McHugh [7] and Walsh et al. [8] showed that
twist angle, chord distribution and wing tip shape are the main factors which control the per-
formance of straightened blade propellers. Cho and Williams [9] used a lifting surface theory for
their wingpropeller interaction analysis with good results.
The variables for optimization of rotary wings include noise control, interaction control,
improving eciency, etc. In this study, propeller blade shapes are optimized to improve their
eciencies. The numerical optimization method used in this study needs more calculation than
the inverse design method. But, if the objective function and constraints are dened rst, design
variables which maximize or minimize objective function can be found easily. Chang and
Sullivan [4] used the numerical optimization method for their propeller blade shape optimiz-
ation. The optimization techniques require fast calculation of objective functions and Mikkelson
et al. [6] showed that using the lifting line theory shows reasonable accuracy and fast computing
time. In this study both a lifting line theory and a lifting surface theory are used for the calcu-
lation of objective functions to optimize the blade shapes of propellers and propfans respect-
ively, for eciency improvement.

The Extended linear Interior Penalty function Method (EIPM), one of the Sequential
Unconstrained Minimization Techniques (SUMT), is employed as an optimization technique.
SUMT transforms a constrained optimization problem into a series of unconstrained optimiz-
ation problems and constructs pseudo-objective function using penalty functions. Therefore the
technique leads to a series of unconstrained optimization solutions by updating the initial pen-
Constrained optimization problem
Objective function Fx 1

Constraints gj x  0; j 1; m
hk x 0; k 1; l

Transformed unconstrained optimization problem

Pseudo-objective function fx; rp Fx rp Px 2
where, P(x) is a penalty function and rp is a multiplier which denes the magnitude of penalty.
The EIPM has continuous penalty function in every region and can nd a search direction in
any infeasible region [10].
m X
fx; r_ p ; rp Fx rp Bx rp hk x2 3
j1 k1

A penalty function B(x) is used as an inequality constraint and hk(x) is an equality constraint. A
Hessian matrix [10] can be constructed to determine a search direction as follows.
S q H q rFxq 4
Propeller blade shape optimization 409

H q1 H q Dq 5
where, q is an iteration step and the details of Dq can be found in [10].
The algorithm is,
Step 1: Guess the initial design variables x0 and initial Hessian matrix H0.
(generally, H0=I)
Step 2: Dene search direction.
Sq= HqHF(xq)
Step 3: Dene a*, a multiplier which determines the amount of change in the search direction.
Step 4: Update design variables and calculate HF(xq + 1), Hq + 1.
xq + 1=xq+a*qSq
Step 5: Decide convergence criterion and return to Step 2.


3.1. Vortex Lattice Method (VLM)
3.1.1. Basic formulation. Laplace equation, the governing equation for incompressible, inviscid
and irrotational ow, is solved with the ow tangency condition which implies that there are no
normal velocity components to the blade surface as follows.
Governing equation r2 Fx; y; z 0 6

Boundary condition rF F1  n 0 7
where F is the velocity potential induced by vortex lines and F1 is the velocity potential of free
stream. n is normal vector of blade surface. Velocity induced by a bound vortex on a blade sur-
face and helical vortex line can be calculated by Biot-Savart's law [11].
G r0  r1 r1 r2
V1;2 r0  8
4p j r0  r1 j2 j r1 j j r2 j
where V1,2 is the velocity induced by a vortex line between 1 and 2 with strength G.
The boundary conditions to be satised at collocation points are V  n = 0 and the following
algebraic equation can be formed.

vj XM
Aij 9
V1 i1
4pRV 1

where Vj is the summation of free stream velocity V1, induced velocity components, (u, v, w),
and rotational velocity or and Aij is an aerodynamic inuence coecient. The circulation
strength Gj of each vortex lattice element can be determined by solving the above Equations (6)
and (7).
3.1.2. Geometrics of blade and wake. The propeller is discretized by bound vortices on 1/4
chord line and collocation points on 3/4 chord line of each blade as Fig. 1. (Xs, Ys, Zs),
(XE, YE, ZE) are the starting and ending points of a bound vortex of each vortex lattice
3.1.3. Aerodynamic force calculation. The circulation strength Gj of Equation (9) can be used
for the aerodynamic force calculation by the Kutta-Joukowski law.
Fj rV  dG
Gj 2d 10
where 2d is a vortex lattice element length.
Propeller performance coecients, such as power coecient CP, thrust coecient CT, radial
force coecient CR and eciency Z, are dened as follows.
410 Jinsoo Cho and Seung-chi Lee

Fig. 1. Blade discretization.

CT FT J 2 =rV1

CP prj =Rtip Fy J 2 =rV1


CR FR J 2 =rV1
J V1 =nD 11

where J is an advance ratio, n is rotation number and FR, Fy, FT are radial, tangential and axial
force components, respectively.

3.2. 3-D panel method

The 3-D panel method used in this study is a lifting surface theory developed by Cho and
Williams [9,12] and it is based on unsteady, linear aerodynamics. The method is briey
explained in the following subsections and more details on the method can be found in [12].
3.2.1. Boundary condition. The normal velocity of ow at the blade surface must equal the
normal velocity of the blade surface at every point.
n  u Vn 12

where u = velocity of ow in the inertial frame, n = the unit normal vector to the blade sur-
face, Vn=normal velocity of the blade surface.
The boundary condition is to be transferred to the helical surface.
L  u j L j Vn 13
where L = normal vector to helical surface.
Equation (13) means that the normal velocity induced on the helical surface by the load distri-
bution must equal Vn. Vn is given as Equation (14) for the case of steady operation.
Vn Unz O
ynx x
 ny 14
where nx, ny, nz are the components of n in the blade coordinate system.
3.2.2. Lifting surface integral equation. The load distribution determines the distribution of
normal velocity over the reference blade. This relationship between load and normal velocity
can be expressed as an integral equation.
Propeller blade shape optimization 411

Z 1Z yTE
y pr0 ; y0  Ky y0 ; r; r0 r0 d y0 dr0 15
rh yLE @ y0

L  u ioy

W 4p e ; P A2 DP eioy0
U r0 U 2
where W = a variable proportional to the normal velocity, P = a variable proportional to the
pressure jump across the blade, K = a kernel function.
3.2.3. Discretization of the integral equation.. The lifting surface integral Equation (15) is
solved approximately by splitting the blade into a nite number of elements within each of
which P is assumed constant. The normal velocity W is then specied at one point per element,
thereby reducing the integral equation to a set of simultaneous algebraic equations for the loads
on each element. The blade is split into NRP radial strips of arbitrary width. Each strip is then
divided into NXP chordwise pieces by a sequence of constant partial chord lines. The algebraic
system resulting from this discretization is
Wi SCij Pj 16
where Wi=W at ith control point, Pj=P on jth panel
@Kyi y0 ; ri ; r0 
Cij d y0r0 dr0


The mathematical programming uses the same propeller performance analyses discussed pre-
viously and couples the present optimization program. Once the design variables are dened,
the optimization program takes over the role of manipulating the design variables to arrive at
the best blade shape design as shown in Fig. 2.

4.1. Using the Vortex Lattice Method (VLM)

4.1.1. Blade twist angle distribution optimization.. To improve the eciency of propellers using
the Vortex Lattice Method, CP is kept as an equality constraint and CT became an objective
function. Using the VLM, the twist angle distribution can be optimized.
Objective function to be maximized
CT bi 17
CP bi constant
0  bi  p=2; i 1; . . . m

bi b1 ; b2 ; . . . bm T

where bi are the span twist angle distributions dene as design variables.
4.1.2. Chord length distribution optimization. As before, CT is an objective function to be maxi-
mized and CP and AF, an activity factor, are equality constraints. The activity factor is dened
in Equation (18) and it represents the power absorbed by a propeller. Here, an activity factor is
added as another equality constraint, since the chord length distribution can be optimized under
the same activity factor and advance ratio according to [13].
105 Tip  c  r 3  r 
AF d 18
16 Hub D R R
412 Jinsoo Cho and Seung-chi Lee

Fig. 2. Optimization ow chart.

Objective function to be maximized

CT Ci 19
CP Ci constant
AFCi constant
0  Ci  span; i 1; . . . m

Ci C1 ; C2 ; . . . Cm T

where, Ci are the spanwise chord length distributions dened as design variables.

4.2. Using the 3-D panel method

Using the 3-D panel method described earlier, the coordinates of panel edges (node points)
can be optimized using the same optimization technique.
Objective function to be maximized
CT nodei 20
CP nodei constant

nodei node1 ; node2 ; . . . ; nodem T

where nodei is the panel node points dened as design variables.

Propeller blade shape optimization 413

Fig. 3. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized twist angle of Purdue model propeller J = 2.2.

5.1. The blade shape optimization using a lifting line theory
To validate the present method, the optimized and unoptimized twist angle distribution of the
Purdue model propeller using the present method are compared with the result of Chang and
Sullivan [14] in Fig. 3 showing good agreement. The Purdue model blade has an aspect ratio of
3, constant chord, essentially helical twist distribution and a constant prole of NACA0010 sec-
tion. Comparing the cases, the present method showed an eciency improvement of 0.98%
whereas that in [4] showed 0.4%. In the present calculation, the inuence of wakes in the range
of 35 times the blade tip radius after the blade trailing edge are included.
Figure 4 compares the optimized and unoptimized twist angle distribution of the SR-2 prop-
fan blade by the present method along with the result by Chang [14]. The discrepancy between
the two methods is thought to be resulting from the slightly dierent discretization of the SR-2
blade, although the two methods are based on the same optimization theory.
In the absence of comparable results, Figs 5 and 6(ac) show the chord length distribution,
the sectional power coecient distribution, the sectional thrust coecient distribution and the
circulation distribution of optimized and unoptimized SR-2 propfan blade respectively.
Especially in Fig. 5, it is easily shown that the SR-2 blade shape can be optimized to some
extent for eciency improvement. Table 1 shows the numerical results of the SR-2 blade shape
optimization, where the results violate no constraint.
Figures 7, 8 and 9(ac) show the optimized and unoptimized distributions of twist angle,
chord length, sectional power coecient, sectional thrust coecient and circulation for the

Fig. 4. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized twist angle of SR-2 propfan blade.
414 Jinsoo Cho and Seung-chi Lee

Fig. 5. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized chord length of SR-2 propfan blade.

Fig. 6. (a) Comparison of sectional power coecients of optimized and unoptimized SR-2 propfan
blade. (b) Comparison of sectional thrust coecients of optimized and unoptimized SR-2 propfan
blade. (c) Comparison of circulation distributions of optimized and unoptimized SR-2 propfan blade.

Table 1. Result of SR-2 blade shape optimization

SR-2 Propeller b3/4=408 (J = 1.7)

CP CT AF  10
16 D

Initial model 0.300827E 01 0.164225E 01 0.968819 0.928052

Optimized model 0.299379E 01 0.167566E 01 0.968817 0.951509
Percentage eciency
improvement 2.3457%
Propeller blade shape optimization 415

Fig. 7. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized twist angle of NACA 4-(4)(06)-04 propeller blade.

NACA 4-(4)(06)-04 propeller blade respectively. The numerical results for the same propeller
blade are listed in Table 2.
All of the three blades optimized above are discretized with 10 uniform lattices, which is the
minimum number to achieve a reasonable degree of accuracy. The eect of number and choice
of panels are discussed in the Appendix.

5.2. Using a lifting surface theory

Figure 10 shows the propfan coordinate system used in the present analysis. Figures 11 and
12 show the planform shapes and circumferential positions of leading and trailing edges for the
optimized and unoptimized SR-3 propfan blade, respectively. As mentioned earlier, a 3-D
method is used for the aerodynamic forces calculation for the case considered, since the vortex
lattice method used does not model the camber distribution, which is an important design par-
ameter of the modern propfans. The negligible change in the SR-3 optimization eort implies
that the SR-3 propfan has been already optimally designed for best eciency.
Figures 13 and 14 are the results for the SR-7 propfan showing the little changed blade
shapethe same as in the SR-3 case. Tables 3 and 4 show the numerical optimization results of
SR-3 and SR-7, respectively. The tables show almost the identical performance coecients for
the optimized and unoptimized shapes, as can be easily expected.
Both SR-3 and SR-7 blades are discretized with 70 (7 chordwise  10 spanwise) uniformly par-
titioned panels.

Fig. 8. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized chord length of NACA 4-(4)(06)-04 propeller blade.
416 Jinsoo Cho and Seung-chi Lee

Fig. 9. (a) Comparison of sectional power coecients of optimized and unoptimized NACA 4-(4)(06)-
04 propeller blade. (b) Comparison of sectional thrust coecients of optimized and unoptimized
NACA 4-(4)(06)-04 propeller blade. (c) Comparison of circulation distributions of optimized and unop-
timized NACA 4-(4)(06)-04 propeller blade.

Table 2. Result of NACA 4-(4)(06)-04 blade shape optimization

NACA 4-(4)(06)-04 Propeller b3/4=408 (J = 2.7)

CP CT AF  10
16 D

Initial model 0.637094E 01 0.227764E 01 0.157281 0.965263

Optimized model 0.637080E 01 0.227813E 01 0.157281 0.965489
Percentage eciency
improvement 0.02%

Fig. 10. Propfan coordinate system.

Propeller blade shape optimization 417

Fig. 11. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized planform of SR-3 propfan blade.

Fig. 12. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized yL, yT of SR-3 propfan blade.

The optimization method introduced here has been shown to perform good propeller blade
shape optimization for eciency improvement when a lifting line method and a lifting surface
method are used for the aerodynamic performance calculations. The present method showed
good agreement with other numerical schemes for the straight bladed propellers, where the
Vortex Lattice Method is used for the aerodynamic analysis. The results also show that when
eciency improvements are set for the objective function, the propeller blade shape varies to
some extent after optimization.

Fig. 13. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized planform of SR-7 propfan blade.
418 Jinsoo Cho and Seung-chi Lee

Fig. 14. Comparison of optimized and unoptimized yL, yT of SR-7 propfan blade.

Table 3. Result of SR-3 blade shape optimization

SR-3 Propfan (J = 2.416)

CP CT Eciency

Initial model 0.1570E + 01 0.5302E + 00 0.8160

Optimized model 0.1570E + 01 0.5313E + 00 0.8177
Percentage eciency improvement 0.17%

Table 4. Results of SR-7 blade shape optimization

SR-7 Propfan (J = 3.056)

CP CT Eciency

Initial model 0.163233E + 01 0.457982E + 00 0.857429

Optimized model 0.163217E + 01 0.459453E+)) 0.8603
Percentage eciency improvement 0.2871%

It was also found that the present optimization method can be used for validating well-
designed propellers (propfans) and can be a good design tool for high eciency propellers
(propfans). The higher order numerical aerodynamic analysis schemes, such as full potential
codes and Euler codes, etc., need to be incorporated into the present optimization method.
In the absence of comparable results, the present analysis showed that a lifting surface panel
method can be a useful aerodynamic analysis tool for modern propfans whose heavily twisted 3-
D shape depends on camber distributions and blade sweep back.

1. Johnson, W., Recent developments in rotary-wing aerodynamics theory.. AIAA Journal, 1986, 24(8), 1219.
2. A. Rosen and A. Graber, Free wake model of hovering rotors having straight or curved blades., International
Conference on Rotorcraft Basic Research, North Carolina, 1985.
3. O. Rand and A. Rosen, A lifting line theory for curved helicopter blades in hovering and axial ight, The 8th
European Rotorcraft Forum, Aix-en-Provence, France, 1982.
4. Chang, L. K. and Sullivan, J. P., Optimization of propeller blade twist by an analytical method. AIAA Journal,
1982, 22(2), 22.
5. Chiu, Y. D. and Peters, D. A., Numerical solutions of induced velocities by semi-innite tip vortex lines. Journal of
Aircraft, 1987, 25(8), 684.
6. D. C. Mikkelson, G. A. Mitchell and L. J. Bober, Summary of recent NASA propeller research, The AGARD Fluid
Dynamics Panel Meeting on Aerodynamics and Acoustics of Propellers, Toronto, Canada, 1984.
7. M. A. McVeigh and F. J. McHugh, Inuence of tip shape chord, blade number and airfoil on advanced rotor per-
formance, The 38th Annual Forum of the American Helicopter Society, Anaheim, CA, 1982.
8. J. L. Walsh, G. J. Bingham and M. F. Riley, Optimization methods applied to the aerodynamic design of helicopter
rotor blades, The 26th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials Conference,
Orlando, Florida, 1985.
9. Cho, J. and Williams, M. H., Propellerwing interaction using a frequency domain panel method. Journal of
Aircraft, 1990, 27(3), 196.
Propeller blade shape optimization 419

10. G. N. Vanderplaats, Numerical Optimization Techniques for Engineering Design, 2nd edn. McGraw-Hill, New York,
11. J. Katz and A. Plotkin, Low-Speed Aerodynamics from Wing Theory to Panel Methods, 1st edn. McGraw-Hill, New
York, 1991.
12. M. H. Williams, An unsteady lifting surface theory for single rotation propellers, Purdue University Report, W.
Lafayette, IN, 1985.
13. C. Tau, E. Lan and J. Roskam, Airplane Aerodynamics and Performance, 1st edn. The University of Kansas
Lawrence Press, Kansas, 1980.
14. L. K. Chang, The theoretical performance of high eciency propellers. Ph.D. thesis. Purdue University, W.
Lafayette, IN, 1980.
15. A. K. H. Lee. A computational investigation of propeller/wing interaction. M.S. thesis. Purdue University, West
Lafayette, IN, 1988.

The minimum number of lattices or panels used for the present blade shape optimization method should be chosen care-
fully for the best optimized results with the least errors involved. As an example, eects of a number of lattices on sol-
utions for Purdue model propeller using a vortex lattice method are given and the choice of lattices are discussed.
According to [15], the present error of aerodynamic coecients decreases with increasing number of lattices in the vortex
lattice method. However, when the method is used as an aerodynamic tool for the optimization, the design variables and
constraints will increase in proportion to the number of lattices. Using an excessive number of design variables and con-
straints may cause diculty in nding the search direction. Since it was found that using nonuniform lattices showed
negligible eect on solutions, the uniform lattices are used for the cases considered here.
Figure A1 shows the eect of number of lattices on eciency improvement for the Purdue model propeller. It can be
easily shown in the gure that eciency improvement amount reaches to a constant value asymptotically as the number
of lattices increases over 10. Figure A2 shows the optimized twist angle distributions of the Purdue model propeller
blade for dierent numbers of lattices. It can be seen in the gure that the solution improves with increasing number of
lattices until 10, whereas the solution for 19 lattices shows a wiggly curve which cannot be considered as an optimized
Although it cannot be shown in the gure, the present optimization scheme fails to work with more than 21 lattices,
which attributes to the excessive number of design variables for the case, as explained already. Therefore, using 10 uni-
form lattices will give good optimized results within the acceptable degree of accuracy although only 7 0 8 lattices are
enough to resolve aerodynamic performance parameters for the vortex lattice method used.

Fig. A1. Eect of number of lattices on eciency improvement for the Purdue model propeller.

Fig. A2. Optimized twist angle distributions of the Purdue model propeller for dierent numbers of lat-