As might be expected, most thruster and propeller work is being done by the same institutions that do hydrodynamics of hulls and underwater shapes.
Bauman Institute of Underwater Devices and Robotics (Moscow). Four areas of propulsion work were discussed with WTEC team members:
Because the visit was brief, there was not time to get into much technical detail with regard to these propulsion research projects.
RRC Kurchatov (Moscow). The Kurchatov Research Center has teamed with the Institute for High Temperatures and the Institute of Power Engineering to develop a magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) propulsion system. Cryogenically pumped superconducting magnets create an extremely powerful magnetic field that can create water (acting as an electrical conductor) movement through an enclosed tube or tunnel, resulting in a propulsive force with no moving parts (propellers, jetpumps, etc.). While such a system would not be feasible for a submersible, the attractiveness for submarines is obvious.
This work has taken place over the past several years and a prototype system is operating in a laboratory. The Russians have said that at least three more years of effort will be required to have a system ready for testing at sea. The most advanced MHD operational system in the world is in the Japanese experimental vessel Yamato. The power level of the Russian prototype is said to be twice that of the unit in the Yamato.
Krylov Institute (St. Petersburg). As a major naval architecture and marine engineering institute, Krylov has the capability and facilities to design and test conventional propellers. However, it is not known if any of this work has been for deep submersibles. The WTEC team was not informed about any specific research and development work being done in this area.
State Nautical Engineering University (St. Petersburg). As noted in the previous discussion on hydrodynamics, this institution has several projects concerned with propulsion. Some of these are:
Institute of Hydromechanics (Kiev). The institute has developed an oscillating wing propulsion system that is being tested at sea on a large scale model. It appears that the concept behind the system is to produce a rough mechanical analog of fish propulsive motion.
Deacon Laboratory of the IOS. Within the Autosub project, the responsibility for propulsion research and development is shared between Moog Controls, Ltd. (motor design), Deacon Laboratory (testing), and the Defense Research Agency -- Haslar -- (propeller design).
The current design approach for the propulsion motor is to use a contra rotating DC brushless unit. This direct drive unit has two propeller hubs connected directly to the rotors of the motors. Seawater-lubricated ceramic bearings are used instead of shaft seals. A single rotation version of this motor is installed on the Marconi ODAS AUV.
The contra rotating propellers are under design development. Preliminary estimates indicate a diameter of 0.6 m for a 1.5 revolutions per second rotational blade speed.