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Raindrops, pesticides, and oil spills – droplet interactions with porous and textured surfaces

School of Engineering

About the Project

Droplet interactions with porous and textured surfaces play a crucial role in many important physical processes including the spraying of plant leaves with pesticides, the infiltration of rain and surface water into soil and the migration of oil in doubly permeable porous media, while a greater understanding of these processes will potentially lead to improved strategies for remediation for chemical contaminants and oil spills, and also flood mitigation.

This project will develop theoretical and numerical models linking both the evolution of a sessile droplet on a porous surface with flow in the subsurface and also of a sessile droplet spreading on a textured surface. A Stokes flow boundary element description of the free surface of a droplet initially resting on a porous surface will be coupled to flow models of the partially and fully saturated regions within the porous media beneath. The novel use of a Stokes flow boundary element method in this coupled configuration will enable the free-surface evolution to be calculated for a wide range of initial contact angles corresponding to both wetting and non-wetting fluids. The coupled dynamics will inform the relationship between different subsurface fluid flow models, relative permeabilities, and the evolution in droplet shape as it is absorbed. The inverse problem of determining properties of the porous medium from the droplet behaviour will also be considered, with the aim of determining whether readily measured droplet properties on the surface can be used as proxies for sub-surface flow characteristics.

In the first year of the PhD, numerical methods will be developed for idealized two-dimensional geometries. In later years, these methods will be extended to axisymmetric and three-dimensional cases. The possibility to experimentally validate the modelling predictions may be available.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science or Chemistry.

Knowledge of: Fluid dynamics. Experience of computational methods and continuum modelling is also beneficial.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)
• Detailed CV

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr P Hicks (), with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ()

It is possible to undertake this project entirely by distance learning. Interested parties should discuss this with Dr Hicks.

Funding Notes

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Engineering and Applied Mathematics. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting View Website. THERE IS NO FUNDING ATTACHED TO THIS PROJECT

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