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Fluid Mechanics of a bio-inspired autonomous vessel

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  • Full or part time
    Dr IM Viola
    Dr F Giorgio-Serchi
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

There is a growing need for unmanned vehicles that can operate at sea for long periods of time to monitor the environment, the well-being of biological systems such as corals and fish, and also of offshore installations such as wind farms. These vehicles need to harvest energy from the environment both for propulsion and for their monitor operations.

In the harsh marine environment, a powerful and renewable energy resource that can be exploited is that of ocean waves. Waves leads to periodic flow fluctuations, whose energy can be harvested with passively oscillating foils. An akin mechanisms, for example, is exploited by fish swimming in a school, that exploit the wakes of the neighboring fish to minimize the cost of locomotion. For example, Beal et al. ( showed with an inspiring experiment that fish are capable of passive locomotion in the wake of an obstacle.

This bio-inspired project aims to investigate the underlying fluid mechanics of passive locomotion in waves and wave-powered propulsion. It will be based on computational fluid dynamics simulations and will deliver a low order model to predict the performances of state-of-the-art wave-powered vehicles. The model will be validated with experiments in Flowave, one of the world’s most sophisticated facilities for combined wind and current tests ( The validated model will underpin the design of a new class of more efficient unmanned vehicles.

The project will be undertaken within the Vortex Interaction Collaboratory (VOILAB, and in close collaboration with the UK leading company AutoNaut (, which generously co-funds the project.

Applications will be reviewed from 15th February 2020 until the position is filled.

The applicant should have an undergraduate degree in Mathematics, Physics, Engineering or equivalent, and a solid fluid mechanics background at undergraduate level.

Experience in computational fluid dynamics is desirable but not necessary.

Applicants from underrepresented groups and that would contribute to improve diversity within VOILAb are particularly encouraged to apply.

To Apply:

Funding Notes

Applications are welcomed from self-funded students, or students who are applying for scholarships from the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere

Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU students (International students can apply, but the funding only covers the Home/EU fee rate)



How good is research at University of Edinburgh in General Engineering?
(joint submission with Heriot-Watt University)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 91.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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