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Blast wave propagation in complex environments

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

Sheffield United Kingdom Civil Engineering Structural Engineering

About the Project

The devastating explosion that occurred in the Port of Beirut in August 2020 caused at least 204 deaths, 6,500 injuries, and 15 billion USD in property damage. Such large scale explosions are rare, however explosions in complex environments (e.g. concert halls, transport terminals) are increasing in frequency and severity. The properties of a propagating blast wave are significantly altered as the wave reflects with and diffracts around obstructions in the flow field, with the level of interaction intrinsically linked to both the strength of the incoming blast wave and the relative size of the obstruction. Accurate quantification of the pressure field surrounding an explosive detonated in a complex environment is crucial for determining structural damage and/or human injury. Provision of better blast protection strategies, therefore, can only be possible through a comprehensive understanding of blast wave propagation in environments where many obstacles and reflecting surfaces are present.

Blast interaction with obstacles is a highly non-linear physical process and is difficult to model accurately with high-fidelity physics-based solvers, let alone to predict in a general sense (e.g. with approximate quick-running tools). This project will study blast propagation in complex environments with an aim to better understand how a blast wave is altered from its original free-field form. This will ultimately provide a suite of “correction factors”, which will enable existing simple predictive methods to be augmented and expanded on based on a wide range of different physical settings. Cutting-edge numerical tools will be used to perform Monte-Carlo simulations to gather a wide range of pressure and impulse maps, with the potential to link this with ongoing experimental research at our dedicated blast laboratory. Potential project ideas include blast propagating through cityscapes, or the interaction of blast waves with a series of regular obstacles e.g. fence-type blast barriers.

The candidate should have a background in numerical modelling (e.g. CFD or similar) and computer programming experience. You will be joining The Blast and Impact Research Group at The University of Sheffield, with 4 academic staff members, 3 postdoctoral researchers, and 13 PhD students. The Blast and Impact Research Group has decades of research experience into the mechanisms of loading arising from explosion events and their subsequent effects on structures and materials. Our goal is to determine the underlying mechanisms involved in the loading and responses arising from explosion and impact events with a view to improving the safety of people and infrastructure at risk. Our work balances fundamental scientific research and real-world impact, allowing us to play a key role in the development of new solutions to protect people and structures against the damaging effects of high explosive blasts.

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