Numerical simulation of water repellent soils

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    Cardiff University
    United Kingdom
    Natural sciences


This industrially supported project will focus on representing the processes related to, and assessing the impact of, hydrophobicity on soil behaviour via the development of novel models and their solution utilising established numerical techniques. It is planned that use of machine learning and other AI techniques will form part of the study. The models developed will eventually be implemented into the commercial finite element program LUSAS. The student will be based in Cardiff but will have the opportunity to have a number of short-term visits to LUSAS, who will also provide a wide-range of in-house training and support, and will also benefit from additional external supervision from Dr Sérgio D.N. Lourenço (University of Hong Kong)

Mitigation for slope protection from rainfall is usually costly, intrusive and based in heavy engineering solutions and as such there is significant need for more sustainable low cost alternatives. The potential to use hydrophobic soils as part of engineered schemes for slope protection has emerged as a topic of considerable interest to both industry and the research community and is currently being investigated by the supervisors. Pilot studies in model granular materials with water repellent treatment show that the method is effective in reducing infiltration and relatively low cost. Furthermore, experiments supervised by Dr Lourenço and Prof Cleall testing the response of artificially induced water-repellent soils under different scenarios in relation to the environmental conditions and slope design have provided a rich experimental dataset. The intended PhD programme will build on this expanding experimental body of evidence to explore in detail the infiltration and runoff erosion of hydrophobic soils via theoretical and numerical modelling. These soils, the result of either natural processes such as forest fire or synthetic treatment, exhibit distinctly different drying and wetting characteristics to ’normal’ soils and as such require new or modified modelling approaches. The models will be validated and tested by comparison with experimental test data produced by the supervisors’ research groups. The developed models will allow the design of enhanced geotechnical infrastructure.

What is funded

Tuition fees at the home/EU rate (£4,407 in 2020/21) and an annual stipend equivalent to current Research Council rates (£15,285 stipend for academic year 2020/21), plus support for travel/conferences/consumables. International students may be eligible for a fee only award.

This opportunity is open to Home, EU and international students. Home and European students will be eligible for a full award; international students are eligible for a fee only award.


3 years. 

Start date: October 2020


Candidates should hold or expect to gain a first-class degree or a good 2.1 (or their equivalent) in Engineering or a related subject (for example physics or mathematics).

Desirable skills include a strong mathematical and numerical ability, the capacity to work independently and an inquisitive and problem solving approach to engineering challenges.

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language (IELTS 6.5 or equivalent)

How to Apply

Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University webpages (http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/programme/engineering ) including;

• an upload of your CV

• a personal statement/covering letter

• two references (applicants are recommended to have a third academic referee, if the two academic referees are within the same department/school)

• Current academic transcripts

Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy (Engineering), with a start date of October 2020.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you are applying for advertised funding, reference PC-LUS-2020

Please contact Professor Peter Cleall, Cleall@Cardiff.ac.uk to informally discuss this opportunity


The responsibility for the funding offers published on this website, including the funding description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.