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Investigating Deep Sea Mineral Nodule Mining Strategies and Equipment


Project Description

With the current focus on energy storage and replacement of fossil fuel driven vehicles with alternative power sources, a future shortage of global precious and important minerals has been recognised. This has led to the beginning of a new minerals rush with alternative sources or sources that were felt previously considered un-economical being investigated in more detail. One such mineral source that has been known about for some time is the presence of deep see mineral nodules and layers. These resources have not been commercially exploited before due to the significant technical challenges involved with their removal (occurrence in water depth from 3500-6500m). Many countries have been let investigation areas but currently the technologies do not exist to economically mine the surface nodules that sit in particularly low shear strength sediments.

The research would use the Dundee geotechnical centrifuge1 to prototype different seabed collection and extraction systems based upon successful research in seabed plough systems1,2 and the potential to create and scale soft clay seabed environments in a cost-effective environment. The project will be supported by the co-applicant expertise in advanced numerical techniques (PFEM, DEM)3 to refine and focus the study with efficient parametric investigation.

Applicants wishing to apply should submit a one-page covering letter stating your background, academic qualifications (i.e. Masters degree at 2:1 or above in a related subject), past research experience and interests, and future career aspirations. Please include a full CV, a copy of your academic transcript and the names and contact details of two referees to either or . Please also send any other informal inquiries or queries to the same email addresses.


References
1ROBINSON, S., BROWN, M.J., MATSUI, H., BRENNAN, A., AUGARDE, C., COOMBS, W. & CORTIS, M. (2018) Centrifuge testing to verify scaling of offshore pipeline ploughs. International Journal of Physical Modelling in Geotechnics. Published online 09/10/18. https://doi.org/10.1680/jphmg.17.00075. ISSN 1346-213X.
2BRANSBY, M.F., BARLOW, D., BROWN, M.J., DAVIDSON, J., BRANKIN, S. & ROBINSON, S. (2018) The performance of pipeline ploughs traversing seabed slopes. Ocean Engineering Journal. Vol. 148. pp. 125-135. DOI: 10.1016/j.oceaneng.2017.11.028, ISSN: 0029-8018.
3CIANTIA, M., ARROYO, M., O’SULLIVAN, C., GENS, A., & LIU, T. (2018). Grading evolution and critical state in a discrete numerical model of Fontainebleau sand. Geotechnique. https://doi.org/10.1680/jgeot.17.p.023

Funding Notes

To be eligible for a fully-funded PhD studentship, covering tuition fees and an annual stipend set at UKRI rates, the candidate 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 studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education, further guidance can be found on the EPSRC website). Due to funding requirements the University of Dundee is limited to accepting only UK students.

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