Fluid dynamics of biological compliant surfaces in turbulent flow

Dolphins, as well as most of other aquatic mammals and fish, are covered by a compliant surface that improves their fluid dynamic efficiency. Compliant surfaces, for instance, have been proven to damp flow instabilities and delay the laminar to turbulent transition, and also to damp turbulent fluctuations in fully turbulent flows. Both these two mechanisms result in drag reduction and, thus, in higher speeds and lower energy spent. Similarly, it has been found that some bird and bat wings are covered by small hair that contribute to their ability to fly stably in turbulence. Micro hair on the owl wings damp pressure fluctuations and makes this bird the most silent flyer on earth.

This project aims to investigate the hydrodynamics of the biological fouling on yacht and ship hulls, and to explore similarities with the surfaces of swimmers and flyers in nature. When a hull is immersed in sea water, a nanoscale layer of slime, which is inherently compliant, grows on the hull. If immerged for a sufficiently long period, hairy algae also grows from the slime forming a velvet-type surface similar to that observed on birds and bats. The effect of slime and algae on the hydrodynamic resistance of yacht and ship hulls is still poorly understood and it is the objective of this research project. In the medium and long term, this research project will contribute to design more efficient surfaces for marine and aerial vehicles, and thus reducing fuel consumptions and greenhouse emissions.

The project will be performed in collaboration with AkzoNobel’s marine coatings business, International Paint (www.international-marine.com), which is the world leader company in marine coatings and an established research partner of the University of Edinburgh. Previous joint research includes the effect of roughness on ship resistance, and the conceptual design of compliant coatings for drag reduction. The student will join a vibrant community of postgraduate researchers in fluid mechanics and marine hydrodynamics at the Institute for Energy Systems. The student will be hosted by International Paint for a period of 3 months to gain experimental skill on slime farming, and to foster knowledge exchange between academia and industry. This period will allow the student to gain understanding on how the research outcomes are transformed into industrial impact, and to develop new ideas on how impact could be accelerated and enhanced

The supervisory team will be made of Dr Ignazio Maria Viola, Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Energy Systems of the School of Engineering, and Prof. Paolo Perona, Chair of Environmental Engineering at the Institute for Infrastructure and Environment of the School of Engineering. For more information on their research groups, visit www.homepages.ed.ac.uk/iviola and http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/pperona

Eligibility: student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. A first class degree is highly desirable; 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) will be considered only in exceptional circumstances. Questions on the eligibility should be directed to the U. of Edinburgh’s Engineering Graduate Office, EngGradOffice@ed.ac.uk.

Applications must be submitted by the University of Edinburgh electronic system, http://www.eng.ed.ac.uk/postgraduate/research/apply. Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates who are under-represented in postgraduate researchers in Engineering. Informal enquiries may be made to Dr Viola, i.m.viola@ed.ac.uk

There is no closing date for this position, which will remain open until filled.

Further Information: 

Closing Date: 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Fluid dynamics of biological compliant surfaces in turbulent flow
Fluid dynamics of biological compliant surfaces in turbulent flow

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 


A first class degree is highly desirable; 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) will be considered only in exceptional circumstances.


EPSRC funded (see EPSRC student eligibility). Tuition fees and stipend available for Home students or EU students who have been resident in the UK for three years (International students not eligible).

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: