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Hydro- and sediment dynamics under sea waves

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  • Full or part time
    Prof T O'Donoghue
    Prof D Pokrajac
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Understanding sediment interactions with waves and predicting net sediment transport rates is critically important in the context of coastal engineering. However, wide variability in the flow and sediment conditions and complexity in the underlying processes, mean that current understanding is far from complete and accurate prediction of sediment dynamics and net transport rates is still a major challenge. The PhD project will build on substantial previous research at the University of Aberdeen aimed at better understanding of fundamental sediment transport processes and developing better predictive models for use in engineering practice. New research directions at Aberdeen in this area include the mechanics and transport of gravels under waves, the transport of foreign bodies within a mobile sand bed under waves and the effects of vegetation on sand transport under waves. The PhD research will focus on one of these topics.

Comprising experimental and analytical study, the research will be based on detailed, process-focused measurements of hydro- and sediment dynamics in experiments conducted in the Aberdeen Oscillatory Flow Tunnel (AOFT). This is a large facility specifically designed to study wave-driven sediment processes under full-scale conditions.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to have an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in civil or mechanical engineering; other relevant physical science. An excellent first degree in engineering, or related discipline that includes fluid mechanics, will provide the essential knowledge.

Prior knowledge of the following would be beneficial but is not essential: sea wave mechanics; sediment transport mechanics; laboratory measurements in fluid mechanics.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, it is for self-funded students only.


Aberdeen has a strong research track record in hydro- and sediment dynamics in oscillatory flows and under waves. Example publications:

1. O’Donoghue,T. and Wright, S. (2004), Flow tunnel measurements of velocities and sand flux in oscillatory sheet flow for well-sorted and graded sands, Coastal Engineering, 51, 1163-1184.
2. O’Donoghue,T. and Wright, S. (2004), Concentrations in oscillatory sheet flow for well sorted and graded sands, Coastal Engineering, 50, 117-138.
3. Van der A, D., O’Donoghue, T. and Ribberink, J.S. (2010). Measurements of sheet flow transport in acceleration-skewed oscillatory flow and comparison with practical formulations, Coastal Engineering, 57 (3), 331-342.
4. Van der A, D., O’Donoghue, T., Davies, A.G. and J.S. Ribberink (2011). Experimental Study of Turbulent Boundary Layer in Acceleration-Skewed Oscillatory Flow. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, vol 684, 251-283.
5. Van der A, D., Ribberink, J.S., van der Werf, J.J., O’Donoghue, T., Buijsrogge, R.H., Kranenburg, W.M. (2013). Practical sand transport formula for non-breaking waves and currents. Coastal Engineering, 76, 26-42.

Application Process:

Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for PhD in Engineering, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. Please ensure that you quote the project title and supervisor on the application form.

Informal inquiries can be made to Professor T O'Donoghue ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

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