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Numerical modelling of roots and fibres as soil reinforcement

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Stefanos Papanicolopulos
    Dr K Hanley
  • 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

This project will use continuum and discrete numerical techniques to model how roots and geotextiles can increase the strength of soils at risk of geohazards such as landslides and debris flows.

Geohazards like landslides and debris flows can cause significant cost in human lives and economic loss. It is therefore necessary to understand how these hazards are initiated, and how mitigation measures can decrease their occurrence. It is known that plant and tree roots, as well as artificial geotextiles, can significantly increase the soil shear resistance and prevent its failure; a detailed quantitative understanding of the mechanisms involved is however still missing. In particular, only few works have considered the numerical modelling of the interaction between soil and root/fibre, and the mechanism through which this increases the soil strength.

This project will develop a methodology for determining soil-root and soil-fibre interaction by addressing the following two principal questions:
1. What is the appropriate numerical approach for modelling the interaction at the micromechanical level?
2. How to upscale the detailed numerical results to predict the strengthening effect of a large number of roots/fibres?

The project will consider both continuum and discrete modelling techniques, namely the Finite Element Method (FEM) and the Discrete Element Method (DEM) respectively, for detailed modelling of soil-root and soil-fibre interaction. Particular emphasis will be given on developing the DEM capabilities for realistic simulation of roots and fibres, including modelling the bending and breakage of individual elements. Upscaling strategies for the detailed micromechanical simulations will be developed to obtain bulk-level soil strength information. The appropriate soil strength parameters will be identified, based on the different techniques for assessing the large-scale geohazard risk.

Funding Notes

You must be a UK or EU citizen or a non-EU citizen with permanent settled status in the UK (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) AND have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship.

EU citizens who will not have lived in the UK for the immediate 3 years preceding the start of the studentship but who will have been ordinarily living in an EU/EAA country for at least the past 3 years, would normally be eligible for a Fees Only Award.

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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