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CoPropel: Next-generation marine vessel propellers

Marine propellers, a complex and important structural part of a ship, have traditionally been made off expensive Nickel-Aluminium-Bronze (NAB) or Manganese-Aluminium-Bronze (MAB) alloys in order to operate under high cyclic loading underwater and withstand high stresses due to cavitation phenomena. These propellers require precision machining, long production times and are very heavy to transport.

All the above result in propeller prices that are typically in the hundreds of thousands of euros and long lead times that can results in ships being stranded (for example, after an accident where the propeller is lost and require replacement). This provides a challenge for small and medium-sized shipyards where ships can be alongside awaiting parts, tying up valuable space in the yards, or require the yards to hold stock of replacement parts to ensure quick turnaround of vessels. The process of changing the propeller, or even individual blades of NAB or MAB propellers, requires either a dry-dock to remove and replace the propeller or a specially trained group of divers to replace blades manually underwater. Besides that, a number of issues have been identified with the current NAB/MAB propellers, including vibration, electric signature, and excess weight.

CoPropel puts forth a holistic approach in the shipping industry by introducing a composite marine propeller offering corrosion resistance, light weight, tailoring of material properties, low electric signature and acoustic properties.

The CoPropel consortium seeks to contribute to the optimisation of propulsion systems by developing and maturing technologies for the realisation of marine propellers made of advanced composite materials. Compared to their traditional counterparts, marine composite propellers are more ‘quiet’, ‘lightweight’ and ‘highly efficient’:

  • Low vibration: reduced noise emissions: Its high damping performance absorbs vibration on the shafting leading to reduced underwater radiated noise (URN)
  • Lightweight: 50-60% lighter enabling a smaller shaft diameter resulting in a smaller moment of inertia (1/4)
  • High performance: 12% to 15% lower energy consumption and reduced environmental footprint
  • High Strength: Greater resistance to fatigue enabling high reliability
  • Reduced cavitation: Its flexible deformation enables the cavitation inception to be restrained

This project is expected to produce technical achievements and business opportunities for the maritime stakeholders which will result in socio-economic impacts:

  • Overcome the limitations of composite materials in the maritime industry by proposing innovations in design, shipbuilding and life cycle management.
  • Generate a new EU-market and regulatory framework to build complex marine propulsion components in composite materials enabling a new sector in the shipbuilding industry.
  • Obtain relevant advances beyond the traditional methods of composite-based vessel design and production, allowing the exploitation of new solutions and procedures in the existing market.
  • Enhance the competitiveness of the European shipbuilding industry and take advantage of the existing companies which are providing solutions of composite materials to other sectors such as aeronautic, automotive and wind energy, among others.
  • Maintain the European leadership position in high added-value vessel design and shipbuilding industry.
  • Improvement in vessels’ safety conditions to novel inspection and maintenance concepts. Develop long-term damage control and health monitoring systems of vessels
  • Reduce the environmental impact of the maritime industry, complying with the European environmental policies regarding Gas Emissions (Directive 2012/33/EU) and Underwater Noise Impact (Directive 2008/56/EU).

Project partners

  • TWI Limited
  • University of Ioannina (UOI)
  • Brunel University London
  • The Bulgarian Ship Hydrodynamics Centre (BSHC)
  • Loiretech Ingenierie (LRT)
  • Danaos Shipping Company Limited (DAN)
  • MECA Group (MECA)
  • Glafcos Marine Ltd (GME)
  • Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore Registre International (BV).

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Mihalis Kazilas
Dr Mihalis Kazilas - Dr Mihalis Kazilas is the Director of the Brunel Composites Centre. He has more than 20 years of experience in the composites processing area. He received his PhD in Advanced Materials from Cranfield University back in 2003. His main field of expertise are polymers characterisation and polymer composites manufacturing and joining processes. He is author of several refereed scientific publications in the area of advanced composites manufacturing and process optimisation. Mihalis is a creative thinker who enjoys problem solving and able to work with different stakeholders to achieve the optimum results in both technical and managerial environments. Work experience: Sep 2019 – present: Business Group Manager, Polymer and Composite Technologies, TWI, UK June 2019 – present: Director of the Non-Metallics Innovation Centre, a joint initiative between TWI, Saudi Aramco and ADNOC Oct 2016 – present: Centre Director, Brunel Composites Innovation Centre, Brunel University London, UK Feb 2012 – 2019: Section Manager, Adhesives, Composites and Sealants (ACS) section within the Joining Process Group at TWI, UK May 2006 – Jan 2012: R&D Consultant, Project Engineer, Collaborative Projects Operations Manager at INASCO, Greece

Related Research Group(s)


Brunel Composites Centre - Shared research and technology capabilities, specialising in novel composites processing and joining technologies applied to industrial environments.

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Project last modified 21/11/2023