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Finite element analysis of energy tunnels

School of Engineering

About the Project

In 2008, the UK government set an ambitious target for 2050 with an emphasis on reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, the development of renewable energy technologies is therefore imperative to ensure the completion of this target. Ground-source heat pump system (GSHPs) is one of such technologies, which could provide sustainable heating and cooling energy for housing, offices and retail spaces. For new building and underground developments, it is possible to incorporate the primary heat exchangers through the foundation elements (eg, piles and basement walls) or into the tunnel linings. They are called energy piles/walls/tunnels, or collectively, energy geostructures. The energy geostructures act as both bearing and heat exchanger elements, subjected to the mechanical loading from the overlying building as well as the cyclic thermal loading from the heat carrier. Hence, the design of such special geostructures is quite different from these normal ones, and the major challenge lies in the uncertainties of the coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical behaviour of these energy geostructures, in particular, the thermo-elasto-plastic behavior of soil and soil-structure interaction under cyclic thermal loading. To cover these uncertainties, the energy geostructures are often designed with a high safety factors, which have made these geostructures too expensive to build. For example, the design moment capacity of the energy wall installed in Dean Street Station London is approximately 3 times larger than the calculated maximum bending moment. Therefore, improving the design procedures has huge potentials to make energy infrastructures more financially attractive and compete with conventional fossil-fuel heating technologies.

This project aims at developing a fundamental understanding on the performance of energy tunnels. This is attempted through the development of a heat transfer finite element model using some specific software (eg, Abaqus and Ansys). The research will provide further insight into the short and long term response of operational energy tunnels to ensure the suitability of the GSHP system installed.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Civil/Geotechnical/Thermal Engineering.

The successful candidate will have a good understanding in the fields of soil mechanics, heat transfer, computer simulation, as well as have expertise in the relevant tools, such as Comsol Multiphysics /Anasys/Abaqus.

Knowledge of: Soil mechanics, heat transfer, numerical analysis


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)
• Detailed CV

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr Yi Rui (), with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ()

It is possible to undertake this project entirely by distance learning. Interested parties should discuss this with Dr Rui.

Funding Notes

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Civil Engineering. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting View Website. THERE IS NO FUNDING ATTACHED TO THIS PROJECT


Frodl, S., Franzius, J. N., & Bartl, T. (2010). Design and construction of the tunnel geothermal system in Jenbach. Geomechanics and Tunnelling, 3(5), 658-668.
Cui, S., Liu, P., Wang, X., Cao, Y., & Ye, Y. (2017). Experimental study on deformation of concrete for shotcrete use in high geothermal tunnel environments. Computers and Concrete, 19(5), 443-449.
Rui, Y., & Yin, M. (2017). Thermo-hydro-mechanical coupling analysis of a thermo-active diaphragm wall. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 55(5), 720-735.
Rui, Y., & Yin, M. (2017). Investigations of pile–soil interaction under thermo-mechanical loading. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 55(7), 1016-1028.
Rui, Y., & Soga, K. (2018). Thermo-hydro-mechanical coupling analysis of a thermal pile. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-Geotechnical Engineering, 172(2), 155-173.
Nicholson, Duncan P., et al. "The design of thermal tunnel energy segments for Crossrail, UK." Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-Engineering Sustainability. Vol. 167. No. 3. Thomas Telford Ltd, 2014.

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