In the past several decades, many papers have been published on fluid–structure coupled calculations to analyse the hydro-elastic response of flexible (composite) propellers. The flow is usually modelled either by the Navier–Stokes equations or as a potential flow, by assuming an irrotational flow. Phenomena as separation of the flow, flow transition, boundary layer build-up and vorticity dynamics are not captured in a non-viscous potential flow. Nevertheless, potential flow based methods have been shown to be powerful methods to resolve the hydrodynamics of propellers. With the upcoming interest in flexible (composite) propellers, a valid question is what the consequences of the potential flow simplifications are with regard to the coupled fluid–structure analyses of these types of propellers. This question has been addressed in the following way: calculations and experiments were conducted for uniform flows only, with a propeller geometry that challenges the potential flow model due to its sensitivity to leading edge vortex separation. Calculations were performed on the undeformed propeller geometry with a Reynolds-averaged-Navier–Stokes (RANS) solver and a boundary element method (BEM). These calculations show some typical differences between the RANS and BEM results. The flexible propeller responses were predicted by coupled calculations between BEM and finite element method (FEM) and RANS and FEM. The applied methodologies are briefly described. Results obtained from both calculation methods have been compared to experimental results obtained from blade deformation measurements in a cavitation tunnel. The results show that, even for the extreme cases, promising results have been obtained with the BEM-FEM coupling. The BEM-FEM calculated responses are consistent with the RANS-FEM results.
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