Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Whitfield, David L.

Committee Member

Sarkissian, Daniil

Committee Member

Marcum, David L.

Committee Member

Reese, Donna S.

Committee Member

Newman, James C. III

Other Advisors or Committee Members

Briley, W. Roger

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Computational Engineering (Program)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Engineering


Computational Engineering Program


Cavitation is detrimental to the performance of ships and submarines, causing noise, erosion, and vibration. This study seeks to understand cavitation inception and delay on a typical ducted propulsor by utilizing the SimCenter's unstructured simulation and design system: U2NCLE. Specifically, three fundamental questions are addressed: 1. What are the macroscale flow physics causing cavitation inception? 2. How does cavitation inception scale with Reynolds number? 3. How can tip-leakage vortex cavitation inception be suppressed? To study the physics of cavitation inception, a ducted propulso simulation is developed and extensively validated with experimental results. The numerical method is shown to agree very well with experimental measurements made in the vortex core. It was discovered that the interaction of the leakage and trailing edge vortices cause the pressure to drop to a local minimum, providing ideal conditions for inception to occur. However, experimental observation shows that inception does not occur at the minimum pressure location, but rather at the point where the two vortices completely coalesce. At the point of coalescence, the simulation reveals that the streamwise core velocity decelerates, causing the air nuclei to stretch and burst. A Reynolds number scaling analysis is performed for the minimum pressure and maximum velocity in the vortex core. First, the numerical method is validated on a flate plate at various Reynolds numbers to assess the ability of typical turbulence models to predict Reynolds numbers ranging from one million to one billion. This scaling analysis methodology is then applied to the propulsor simulation, revealing that the minimum pressure in the vortex core is much less dependent on Reynolds number than was previously hypothesized. Lastly, to investigate means of delaying cavitation inception, the propulsor is parameterized and studied using design optimization theory. Concepts of vortex alleviation evident in nature are used to suggest suitable parameterizations. Also, dimension reduction is used to reduced the number of design variables. Finally, the concepts are implemented, evaluated, and shown to completely decouple the two vortices causing cavitation inception. Moreover, the minimum pressure in the vortex core is significantly increased.