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

Project Description

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.

The successful candidate should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science or Chemistry.

Essential knowledge of: Engineering, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science or Chemistry.
Desirable knowledge of: Fluid dynamics. Experience of computational methods and continuum modelling is also beneficial.


Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


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 ().

Funding Notes

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

How good is research at Aberdeen University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 38.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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