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Hydrodynamics of Billfish Skin Surface Roughness

   School of Engineering

About the Project

The aim of this project is to investigate the hydrodynamics of surface roughness patterns which are modelled on the skin of billfish (e.g. Sailfish, Marlin, Swordfish, Spearfish). Billfish are apex marine predators and are recognised as being amongst the fastest swimming fish in the oceans. They exhibit unique patterns of roughness across their bodies but despite the fact that many hypotheses have been proposed to explain the exceptional swimming performance of the billfish, the role that this skin surface roughness plays remains poorly understood. There is evidence, based on similar work on shark skin, that better understanding of the natural morphology of billfish skin roughness has the potential to lead to improved design of engineering surfaces for the transport of fluids and the mitigation of surface fouling, among other practical applications. In addition to engineering applications, the results will also benefit fish biologists in helping to identify the role of skin roughness in the overall biomechanics and physiology of billfish.

Through a ‘biomimetical’ approach, the successful candidate will begin by developing representative digital models of the skin roughness using samples already held by the PI. The student will also be able to explore opportunities to collect and analyse additional samples. The digital models will then be physically manufactured (e.g. through 3D printing or CNC milling) and will be installed on the bed of a recirculating open-channel flume in the fluid mechanics laboratory at the University of Aberdeen. An extensive set of experiments will then be conducted to assess the hydraulic resistance of the surface roughness patterns. A modular particle image velocimetry (PIV) system will also be used to collect detailed information on the boundary layer flow over these surfaces across a range of flow conditions, aimed at simulating the swimming speeds of the fish. Beyond the experiments, the candidate will research potential practical applications where these surface roughness patterns can be employed.

The successful applicant will be expected to contribute to all stages of the project from experimental design, through to conducting experiments and collecting, processing and interpreting the data before writing everything up. Interested candidates are encouraged to make initial contact to find out more information. 

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in a suitable Engineering discipline (e.g. Civil, Mechanical), or Physics.

A highly motivated, pro-active individual with keen interest in fluid mechanics and excellent communication skills and knowledge of undergraduate level fluid Mechanics is essential.


Formal applications can be completed online:

- Apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

- State the name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor

- State the exact project title on the application form

-Personal Statement/Motivation Letter

- All Degree Certificates/Academic Transcripts (officially translated into English and original)

- 2 Academic References on official headed paper and signed or sent from referees official email address

- Detailed CV

- Confirmation you can meet the difference in fees (if applicable)

The start date of the project is as soon as possible and to be agreed with the lead supervisor.

The closing date for this studentship is 12 noon on 18th June 2022. However, if a suitable candidate is found before then, we reserve the right to remove it.

Funding Notes

Applications are welcome from International students. However, any portion of tuition fees not covered by the funding must be met by the applicant. For example, tuition fees for academic year 2021/2022 are £21,500 for International students and £4,500 for UK students , which would leave an outstanding amount of £17,000 to be paid by the applicant (per annum). The annual stipend at 2021/22 rates is £15,609 which is paid in monthly instalments, in arrears.

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