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Loughborough University Featured PhD Programmes

Assessing the impact of long-term SO2 exposure on aviation

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

About the Project

Air travel is increasing globally, especially within regions surrounding the Pacific Ocean. The high density of volcanoes within that region means that the interaction between volcanic plumes and aircraft is expected to rise in the future. Explosive events lead to the emission of ash and gas plumes into the atmosphere. The impact of ash on aircraft is well-recognised, however, the impact of SO2, one of the most commonly emitted volcanic gases, on the airframe is poorly understood, both from acute exposure events (e.g. explosive eruptions) but also from long-term, low-level exposure from passively degassing volcanoes. Sulphidation, causing corrosion of key components within the aircraft engine, leads to higher maintenance costs and shorter lifetimes for the whole engine. Understanding of the distribution of low-level, persistent SO2 plumes from passively degassing volcanoes in relation to travel routes will allow for a quantification of SO2 exposure to aircraft.
The student will use satellite observations to investigate the global variability of volcanic SO2 plumes in relation to air travel routes. Exposure databases will be used to assess the relation between reported exposures to those expected from these investigations. Dispersion modelling will be used to explore the impact of changing travel routes and emission variability.
Fieldwork is envisaged within the project, but initially it will be desk-based, meaning it is possible to start, despite any continuing COVID-19 lockdown.

The student will be based in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester, supervised by Dr. Cat Hayer and Prof. Mike Burton. BGS co-supervisors are Prof Sue Loughlin and Dr Sam Engwell. The student will also participate in the NERC-funded project V-PLUS.

Funding Notes

This is a joint, fully funded PhD with support from COMET, the British Geological Survey and in partnership with Rolls-Royce.

• A strong undergraduate degree, or preferably postgraduate Masters degree, in a relevant subject;
• Prior experience in a high-level scientific computing language, preferably Python;
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills;
• Able to work well in a team and independently;
• Good time and personal management skills.

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