Project code



School of Mechanical and Design Engineering

Start dates

February and October

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Technology, and will be supervised by Dr Jason Knight, Dr James Buick and Professor Hom Dhakal.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Use of commercial and open source computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software linked with structural code to determine fluid-structure interactions (FSI)
  • High quality benchmark experimental data collection for use in FSI validation
  • Investigation of the use of fibre orientation on deformation characteristics to provide tailored solutions to aero and hydroelastic problems

This timely and novel research project aims to advance knowledge and use of computational methods to predict aeroelastic and hydroelastic effects of composite structures with anisotropic material properties. Such deformable objects can be tailored for use in many industrial applications. The development of scaling laws will enable use in multidisciplinary fields of engineering interest.

OpenFOAM is an open source computational fluid dynamics code that enables users to directly modify the code. Initially, agreement with the results from previous computational work on modeling the FSI of hydrofoils will be found to provide a stable foundation. Further investigations will identify limitations and desirable performance characteristics.

Further validation will be established with existing and also new experimental measurements with the work being extended into more complex geometries. The effects of location of the elastic axis and fibre orientation within the composite structures will be studied. This approach will be used initially with hydrofoils to deform to prescribed shapes at particular flow speeds enhancing performance over a range of operating conditions. The performance of a Ben Ainslie Racing daggerboard, which is a hydrofoil with complex characteristics, will be modelled and optimised.

In addition, scaling laws will be identified and the non-dimensional limitations will be established opening up the research to many other applications of industrial interest. In the aerospace industry, the performance of Micro Air Vehicle wings will be tailored to a specific requirement. In power generation industry, the effect of gusty conditions in the performance and structural integrity of wind turbines will be mitigated. Whereas, in the oil and gas industry, the wind shielding properties of fences will be analysed to provide adequate ventilation and protection in harsh environments. Thence, this work aligns well with future and emerging technology theme as well as the sustainability and the environment theme.

Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Must have an interest and some background in CFD along with a good understanding and knowledge of structural mechanics.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Jason Knight ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this PhD opportunity you must quote project code SMDE5400220 when applying.


When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Mechanical and Design Engineering PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake.