Understanding the heat transfer, pyrolysis, and ignition of wildland fuels

Uncontrolled wildfires are an increasingly significant natural hazard causing £billons of losses per year globally. Low intensity prescribed fires are used extensively to manage hazardous fuel loadings, mitigate unwanted wildland fires, restore ecological function and historic fire regimes, and encourage the recovery of threatened and endangered species in many ecosystems. Current predictive models used to simulate fire behavior during low-intensity prescribed fires (and unwanted wildfires) are empirically-based, simplistic, and fail to adequately predict fire behaviour; this is mostly because they fail to suitably account for fuel characteristics and interactions with important environmental variables such as wind, temperature and humidity.

This exciting PhD studentship will investigate the degradation, heat transfer, ignition, and combustion of wildland fuels with the aim of providing novel insights into these mechanisms for application to advanced wildfire modelling. This will include fundamental laboratory studies and field work across multiple scales, including real-scale fire testing in the United States. Finally, integration of the research findings into the latest computational codes for wildfire modelling will allow improved prediction of fire spread in this challenging environment.

The successful candidate will work closely within a vibrant, growing team focused on wildfire research within the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. The successful candidate will travel to the United States for extended periods of up to 2 months and up to 6 times during their degree to participate in field scale experiments undertaken in close collaboration with the partners listed below. A degree in Mechanical or Chemical Engineering would provide an excellent background for this project, however candidates with a Geoscience or Applied Physics background are also strongly encouraged to apply.

The project is funded by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP, US Department of Defense) and partners include the US Forest Service, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Michigan State University, West Virginia University, and Rochester Institute of Technology.

Closing Date: 

Monday, February 19, 2018
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Principal Supervisor: 


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


EPSRC funding to cover tuitions fees and stipends is available to UK and EU students. International students are not eligible for this, but may still apply.

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: