Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Frederick Stern

First Committee Member

Jasbir S. Arora

Second Committee Member

Kyung K. Choi

Third Committee Member

Ching-Long Lin

Fourth Committee Member

H.S. Udaykumar


Multidisciplinary design optimization (MDO) refers to the process of designing systems characterized by the interaction of multiple interconnected disciplines. High-fidelity MDO usually requires large computational resources due to the computational cost of achieving multidisciplinary consistent solutions by coupling high-fidelity physics-based solvers. Gradient-based minimization algorithms are generally applied to find local minima, due to their efficiency in solving problems with a large number of design variables. This represents a limitation to performing global MDO and integrating black-box type analysis tools, usually not providing gradient information. The latter issues generally inhibit a wide use of MDO in complex industrial applications.

An architecture named multi-criterion adaptive sampling MDO (MCAS-MDO) is presented in the current research for complex simulation-based applications. This research aims at building a global derivative-free optimization tool able to employ high-fidelity/expensive black-box solvers for the analysis of the disciplines. MCAS-MDO is a surrogate-based architecture featuring a variable level of coupling among the disciplines and is driven by a multi-criterion adaptive sampling (MCAS) assessing coupling and sampling uncertainties. MCAS uses the dynamic radial basis function surrogate model to identify the optimal solution and explore the design space through parallel infill of new solutions.

The MCAS-MDO is tested versus a global derivative-free multidisciplinary feasible (MDF) approach, which solves fully-coupled multidisciplinary analyses, for two analytical test problems. Evaluation metrics include number of function evaluations required to achieve the optimal solution and sample distribution. The MCAS-MDO outperforms the MDF showing a faster convergence by clustering refined function evaluations in the optimum region.

The architecture is applied to a steady fluid-structure interaction (FSI) problem, namely the design of a tapered three-dimensional carbon fiber-reinforced plastic hydrofoil for minimum drag. The objective is the design of shape and composite material layout subject to hydrodynamic, structural, and geometrical constraints. Experimental data are available for the original configuration of the hydrofoil and allow validating the FSI analysis, which is performed coupling computational fluid dynamics, solving the Reynolds averaged Navier-Stokes equations, and finite elements, solving the structural equation of elastic motion. Hydrofoil forces, tip displacement, and tip twist are evaluated for several materials providing qualitative agreement with the experiments and confirming the need for the two-way versus one-way coupling approach in case of significantly compliant structures.

The free-form deformation method is applied to generate shape modifications of the hydrofoil geometry. To reduce the global computational expense of the optimization, a design space assessment and dimensionality reduction based on the Karhunen–Loève expansion (KLE) is performed off-line, i.e. without the need for high-fidelity simulations. It provides with a selection of design variables for the problem at hand through basis rotation and re-parametrization. By using the KLE, an efficient design space is identified for the current problem and the number of design variables is reduced by 92%.

A sensitivity analysis is performed prior to the optimization to assess the variability associated with the shape design variables and the composite material design variable, i.e. the fiber orientation. These simulations are used to initialize the surrogate model for the optimization, which is carried out for two models: one in aluminum and one in composite material. The optimized designs are assessed by comparison with the original models through evaluation of the flow field, pressure distribution on the body, and deformation under the hydrodynamic load. The drag of the aluminum and composite material hydrofoils is reduced by 4 and 11%, respectively, increasing the hydrodynamic efficiency by 4 and 7%. The optimized designs are obtained by evaluating approximately 100 designs. The quality of the results indicates that global derivative-free MDO of complex engineering applications using expensive black-box solvers can be achieved at a feasible computational cost by minimizing the design space dimensionality and performing an intelligent sampling to train the surrogate-based optimization.


Composite material, Computational fluid dynamics, Finite elements, Fluid-structure interaction, Multidisciplinary design optimization, Surrogate models


xxi, 159 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 153-159).


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Copyright © 2018 Silvia Volpi