VOILAb PhD opportunities


Position 1: The Resistance of Ships with Multiscale Roughness

Understanding the hydrodynamics of marine coatings is critical to develop new products that minimise the friction resistance, the fuel consumption and the greenhouse emissions of marine transport. The challenge of modelling and predicting the friction resistance of ship hulls in real sailing conditions is due to the wide range of length-scales involved, from the micron-scale of the coating roughness to the metre-scale of the ship's boundary layer thickness (Raupach et al. Appl. Mech. Rev. 44 1991, Gad-el-Hak Appl. Mech. Rev. 49 1996). The width of this range of scales, and the fluid mechanics interaction between the scales, make the physics impossible to be replicated exactly in a laboratory setting (Gad-el-Hak Prog. Aerosp. Sci. 38 2002, Jimenez Annu. Rev. Fluid Mech. 36 2004). 

A recent work funded by AkzoNobel's Marine, Protective & Yacht Coatings and undertaken at the University of Edinburgh showed the strong interaction between roughness features of different sizes. However, current practice is to consider one equivalent roughness height to model the effect of roughness on ship hulls (Yeginbayeva et al. Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng. Part M J. Eng. Marit. Environ. 233 2019). How to model the non-uniform distributions of roughness and combination of micro and macro roughnesses in numerical simulations of ship hulls is currently unknown. The recent review by Andersson et al. (Appl. Ocean Res. 99 2020) concludes that more research is needed to understand the combined effect on the full-scale friction resistance of the wide range roughness features on a ship hull. This project aims to address this key industry challenge with fundamental fluid mechanics research. 

The aim of this project is to develop a methodology to accurately predict the friction resistance of ship hulls at full scale accounting for heterogenous fouling roughness, including hard fouling such as barnacles, and patchy slime with different thickness. New theoretical models of the interaction between different roughness features will be developed. These will be implemented into a Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes code (OpenFOAM) to compute the friction resistance of a full-scale hull for different surface conditions. 

The student will join the Vortex Interaction Laboratory (VOILAb.eng.ed.ac.uk) within the Institute for Energy Systems of the School of Engineering, The University of Edinburgh. The project will be jointly supervised by Dr Ignazio Maria Viola (VOILAb) and Dr Haoliang Chen (AkzoNobel), and will include a three month secondment at AkzoNobel’s Marine, Protective & Yacht Coatings. 

Closing Date: 31st January 2022
To apply: https://edin.ac/3ozXG5o 

Position 2:  A Bio-Inspired Drone for Swarm Sensing (*** updated 18th Jan 2022 ***)

In the next decade, distributed sensor network systems made of insect-scale flying sensors will enable a step change in monitoring natural disasters and remote areas. They will contribute to protecting the environment by providing data on the contamination of physical and biological systems and on the impact of human activities. To date, a key limitation of this technology is that small drones such as the robobee can remain airborne only for few tens of minutes.

By contrast, some natural flyers such as the dandelion fruit, travel unpowered for days and hundreds of kilometres. Recent work led by the Principal Supervisor of this project and published in Nature (https://edin.ac/385DnRY), revealed that the dandelion adopts a highly porous wing to form a new fluid vortex that has never been observed before, and to increase its aerodynamic efficiency by an order of magnitude.

This project aims to translate these biological insights into the design, manufacturing and test of a man-made flyer, the dandidrone, capable of remaining airborne exploiting only the energy in the wind. The dandidrone will be passively transported by the wind and will record data while flying. Novel manufacturing principles combining nature-inspired selective metallisation techniques and 3D printing/doctor blading of soft materials will allow a step change in the manufacture of soft robotics. Prototypes will be tested in a first-of-its-kind wind tunnel at the University of Edinburgh as part of a complementary project funded by the European Research Council.

These new capabilities of insect-scale drones will enable new business opportunities and attract investments from industry. Several companies have already expressed their eagerness to collaborate to this project, including Leonardo, the biggest suppliers of defence equipment to the UK Ministry of Defence, which will contribute to the project as an industrial advisor.

This project will complement the activities within the ERC project ‘Dandidrone’ (H2020 ERC CoG 2020), a €2M five-year project led by the Principal Supervisor that started in June 2021. The project also builds on a recently completed Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2015-255, £341k) project “The Form & Function of the Dandelion Fruit”.

The supervisory team includes Dr Ignazio Maria Viola, Head of the Vortex Interaction Laboratory (VOILAb) at the University of Edinburgh, and Prof. Marc Desmulliez at Heriot-Watt University. Desmulliez’s research group is involved in the design of novel manufacturing technologies and sensor technologies. He co-authored over 500 publications and holds 9 patents. He successfully graduated 35 PhD students and is currently the manager of the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre and Director of the Nature Inspired Manufacturing Centre.

Closing Date: 28th February 2022 (*** updated 18 Jan 2022 ***)
To apply: Graduate School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh (*** updated 18 Jan 2022 ***)

Who should apply for a PhD in VOILAb

We welcome applications from outstanding and ambitious students, with the potential of becoming extraordinary scholars. We select less than 2% of the applications that we receive, and the only selection criteria is excellence.

Successful applicants have a very diverse background, including engineering, mathematics, physics, biology, etc. Our research group is very diverse for gender, race, nationality, career ambition, etc. We strongly value the diversity in our group, and thus applicants from groups tipically under-represented in academia are strongly encouraged to apply. Find here the minimum entry requirements by country.

Being fluent in both spoken and written English is essential. We accept the following English language qualifications at the minimum grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 with at least 20 in each section
  • PTE Academic: total 61 with at least 56 in each of the Communicative Skills scores
  • CAE and CPE: total 176 with at least 169 in each paper
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Informal Enquiries

Informal enquiries (excluding questions on the application process and scholarships) can be sent by email to Dr Ignazio Maria Viola at i.m.viola@ed.ac.uk. Please clearly state your questions in the email and confirm that you have read this webpage. Questions on the application process and scholarships should be directed to the Postgraduate Office of the School of Engineering EngGradOffice@ed.ac.uk.

Within your enquiry, it is strongly recommended that you attach a detailed CV including all of the following:

  • Details of every qualification
  • Academic career history, including explanation of any gap and interruption
  • Explain any academic success in detail. For example, state how you ranked in your class and of how many students was your class made of; provide factual and verifiable statement of how prestigious are every award you received; state how many people competed for any scholarship you received; etc.
  • If you have published any conference or journal paper, clearly state your contribution
  • State if you intend to self-fund your studies, if you have secured funds from a sponsor (and which one), or which scholarships to you intend to apply for.