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Experimental and numerical modelling of the interaction between internal solitary waves and offshore wind infrastructure

   School of Engineering

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  Dr M Carr, Dr Charlie Lloyd, Dr R Dorrell  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD scholarship is offered by the Aura Centre for Doctoral Training in Offshore Wind Energy and the Environment; a partnership between the Universities of Durham, Hull, Newcastle and Sheffield. The successful applicant will undertake a PG-Dip training year at the University of Hull before completing their PhD research at Newcastle University.

For more information visit Or if you have a direct question about the project, please email [Email Address Removed] and we will forward the query to the relevant supervisor. Please do not contact the project supervisors directly.

The oceans are stratified since variations in seawater temperature and salinity lead to layers of different densities. This density stratification allows for internal waves to exist and propagate. These waves are barely visible at the surface of the ocean but can reach large amplitudes of 10s-100s of meters in its interior. Such waves are usually generated by tidal motions over underwater mountains or by currents in certain narrow straits or river mouths. They play a major role in mixing different layers in the oceans, can transport energy over long distances, and are an important dissipation mechanism for tidal motion. Internal solitary waves (ISWs) are a particular form of internal waves that are composed of a single or very few pulses and can travel very large distances without significant change in form.

The offshore wind sector is set to expand exponentially, with capacity in the UK increasing from its current rate of 13GW to 50 GW by 2030 and 140 GW by 2050. Consequently, offshore wind infrastructure is moving into deeper-stratified waters where ISWs may be present [2] and ISWs pose a new challenge to engineers and spatial marine planning in the sector. ISWs can propagate much further than surface waves and can be significantly larger in both space and time. ISWs have been known to displace oil platforms by as much as 200 m horizontally, and 10 m vertically, and cause enormous local loads and bending moments [4]. They can cause scour on pipelines and interfere with under-water communications. Moreover, they affect the distribution of heat, plankton, nutrients, aquatic animals, chemical constituents, and contaminants in the water column [3]. Yet there are no studies investigating what impacts may arise from ISW interactions with offshore wind infrastructure.

The aim of this project is to understand and quantify the impact of ISW fields on fixed and floating offshore wind platforms. The project will employ experimental and numerical techniques, to quantify and understand the interaction between an ISW field and three types of offshore wind structure namely fixed bottom monopile, floating spar-buoy, and semi-submersible.

Experiments will make use of a bespoke wave flume at Newcastle University. A stratified two-layer flow will be created using concentrated brine solution and an ISW will be generated by a lock-gate [1]. The ISW will interact with 3D printed models of offshore wind infrastructure located at the downstream end of the flume. Dynamics will be quantified using 2D PIV and state-of-the-art tomographic PTV, to capture the evolving 3D velocity field in a volume around the structure. These experiments will provide a detailed picture of how infrastructure interacts with ISW fields. Complementary numerical simulations will be performed using a spectral element Navier Stokes solver.

The student will be part of a strong, internationally leading team working across two institutions with Dr Magda Carr at Newcastle University and Drs Charlie Lloyd and Robert Dorrell at the University of Hull. In addition, the team will consult regularly with industry through Dr Gus Jeans (Oceanalysis Ltd). This work will be the first to quantify the interactions between ISWs and offshore wind infrastructure. The candidate’s work is therefore urgently needed to assess the associated impacts of ISW interactions with current and future deep water developments.

Entry Requirements

If you have received a First-class Honours degree or a 2:1 Honours degree and a Masters (or the international equivalents) in Mathematics, Physics, Oceanography, Engineering, or a closely related discipline we would like to hear from you. Some knowledge of fluid dynamics and an interest in experimental and numerical work are desirable.

If your first language is not English, or you require Tier 4 student visa to study, you will be required to provide evidence of your English language proficiency level that meets the requirements of the Aura CDT’s academic partners. This course requires academic IELTS 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.0 in each skill.

How to apply

Applications are via the University of Hull online portal; you must also download a supplementary application form from the Aura CDT website, complete and submit as part of the online application.

For more information about the Aura CDT including detailed instructions on how to apply, please visit the website:


Research Council funding for postgraduate research has residence requirements. Our Aura CDT scholarships are available to Home (UK) Students. To be considered a Home student, and therefore eligible for a full award, a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the scholarship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education). For full eligibility information, please refer to the EPSRC website. In addition, a number of Aura CDT Scholarships will be available to International Students across the projects offered by the partner institutions.


For more information why not watch a recording of the webinar we held on 29 November? You will be able to hear the Project Leads from each partner institutions, as well as the question and answer session that followed the presentations.

Funding Notes

The Aura CDT is funded by the EPSRC and NERC, allowing us to provide scholarships that cover fees plus a stipend set at the UKRI nationally agreed rates, circa £17,668 per annum at 2022/23 rates (subject to progress).


[1] Carr M, Sutherland P, Haase A, Evers K-U, Fer I, Jensen A, Kalisch H, Berntsen J, Parau E, Thiem O, Davies PA (2019) Laboratory Experiments on Internal Solitary Waves in Ice-Covered Waters. Geophysical Research Letters, 46(21), 12230-12238.
[2] Dorrell RM, Lloyd CJ, Lincoln BJ, Rippeth TP, Taylor JR, Caulfield CCP, Sharples J, Polton JA, Scannell BD, Greaves DM, Hall RA and Simpson JH (2022) Anthropogenic Mixing in Seasonally Stratified Shelf Seas by Offshore Wind Farm Infrastructure. Front. Mar. Sci. 9:830927. doi:10.3389/fmars.2022.830927
[3] Helfrich KR and Melville WK (2006) Long nonlinear internal waves. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics. 38:395–425 doi: 10.1146/annurev.fluid.38.050304.092129.
[4] Osborne, AR, Burch, TL, Scarlet, RI (1978) The influence of internal waves on deep-water drilling. Journal of Petroleum Technology. 1497-1504.
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