Composite Material and Structural Design for Morphing Tidal Blades for Improved Renewable Energy Harvesting

This research project is offered within the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Wind and Marine Systems and Structures Centre for Doctoral Training (WAMSS). This is a new programme offered jointly by the Universities of Strathclyde, Edinburgh and Oxford. See the following link for more details: Morphing is the ability of a structure to automatically change shape and adapt to changing fluid flows or external pressures. It can be achieved using a passive approach, where the structure bends or twists in response to a stimulus (e.g. change of fluid flow direction or change in differential pressure), or an active approach, where a control system senses a change in conditions and triggers a measured change in shape to adapt to those conditions.

This project will examine the feasibility of reducing tidal turbine blade rigidity substantially via passive morphing (i.e., deliberate in-situ shape change) to increase the harvest of available hydrodynamic energy in an approach analogous to aero-elastic tailoring used for aircraft wings. Morphing has already been proposed in the wind turbine blade sector, with much work published in the last decade. By adjusting for the higher density environment of tidal blades, we believe this approach can be successfully transferred to marine tidal turbine blade design, and comparable benefits in improved blade fluid flow management and energy harvesting should result based on lessons learned in the aerospace sector.

However, seawater is 800 times denser than air, meaning that composite tidal blades must be shorter and thicker at their root sections (ca. 100 mm) to deal with the higher root bending moments, and are thus much stiffer than wind blades or aircraft wings. Therefore, introducing sufficient compliance in blade skins to enable passive (automatic) morphing must be done without compromising the structural integrity of the skin material through the millions of cyclic loadings it will experience during approximately 20 years of blade service. This project will address this challenge via selection and testing of new resin materials, stress analysis of blades in various tidal flow scenarios, and iterative re-design of trailing edge geometry to achieve optimum hydrodynamic power efficiency of operation, thus boosting the efficiency of tidal turbine systems for next generation renewable energy.

*Notes on applying*

  • Please nominate Dr Eddie McCarthy as Supervisor when prompted.
  • Please quote the project title as well as 'CDT WAMSS' when asked for your Project Proposal. 
  • Closing date is 31st January 2020 or until position filled.


Further Information: 

Closing Date: 

Friday, January 31, 2020

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant 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.


Tuition Fees and Stipend are available for UK students and for EU students who have been resident in the UK for 3+ years. 

Funding is not available for Overseas students.

Further information and other funding options.