Type of award: PhD Research Studentship

Department: Mechanical Engineering

Duration: 4 years

Eligibility: Home/EU/Overseas

PhD Topic Background/Description

The aim of this project is to predict the behaviour of slowly-released buoyant gasses in a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) and inform the design of ventilation for such facilities. Geological disposal involves isolating radioactive waste in a vault deep inside suitable bedrock to ensure that no harmful quantities of radioactivity ever reach the surface environment. A GDF will be a highly engineered structure consisting of multiple barriers designed to provide protection over hundreds of thousands of years.

Hydrogen gas – which is potentially flammable – can arise from the corrosion and degradation of certain types of radioactive waste. Ventilation of hydrogen is a significant engineering challenge for a GDF; new research is required to inform the design of the vaults themselves and size the mechanical ventilation for them. Passive safety in the event of a loss of power is a further consideration.

The release of dense and buoyant gases has been extensively studied, including several recently by the project supervisor (Dr Andrew Lawrie) on determining scaling laws for particular geometries. Here our focus will be to migrate existing understanding of special cases into the more general GDF context to predict the likely evolution of hydrogen concentrations. The key scientific challenge lies in estimating the rate of molecular mixing in a vault environment that will have thermal sources and may become density-stratified.

Laboratory experiments measuring vault circulation and release concentrations directly (primarily using non-invasive optical methods) will provide validation for Computational Fluid Dynamics models that will inform the design of GDF vaults and ventilation structures. A sensitivity analysis of the flow will guide suitable locations for a network of hydrogen leak sensors designed to solve the inverse problem of leak source-finding amongst the many individual radioactive waste packages that will be stored in the vault.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants must hold/achieve a minimum of a master’s degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant discipline: Aerospace Engineering, Physical Sciences, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical/Process Engineering, Applied Mathematics.

Please note, acceptance will also depend on evidence of readiness to pursue a research degree.

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile E
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Basic skills and knowledge required

Experience in programming in a compiled language relevant to the design of numerically intensive simulation is essential.

Informal enquiries

Please email Dr Andrew Lawrie ([email protected])

For general enquiries, please email [email protected]

Application Details

To apply for this studentship, submit a PhD application using our online application system

Please ensure that in the Funding section you tick “I would like to be considered for a funding award from the Mechanical Engineering Department” and specify the title of the scholarship in the “other” box below with the name of the supervisor.

Closing date for applications: 29 October 2021

Funding Notes

Enhanced stipend up to £18,000 p.a. subject to eligibility criteria and award.  The funding will cover the amount of tuition fees associated with UK-based students

Funding Information

Funding applies to:

Home/EU/Overseas students

Application Deadline:

29 October 2021

Please see our website for how to apply:
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