Spontaneous and forced Capillary flows on liquid surfaces

Capillary imbibition is a phenomenon in which a liquid spontaneously fills a porous solid due to the to surface tension (think water invading a sponge). Capillary imbibition occurs in many natural and technological processes, including plant water uptake, microfluidics, and printing. Crucially, thus far we understand how a liquid invades a solid medium, but what happens if the solid is replaced by a liquid? This is a fundamental question in fluid mechanics which has substantial potential to unlock solutions in engineering, ranging from reducing friction to enabling the manipulation of droplets in micromechanical devices.

Recently, we have produced the first study of spontaneous capillary flow in a single liquid pore and have produced proof-of-principle experiments in spontaneous and forced flow situations, thus establishing the foundations of this new field of research. In this experimental and modelling project, you will tackle a series of first-of questions involving capillary flows in contact with liquid surfaces:  we are interested in understanding the flow of a liquid front in open liquid channels, the spreading of a film on a structured liquid surface, and the motion with, or against an external force. By answering questions like these, you will be pushing the boundaries of knowledge in this new field and kick-start your postgraduate career.

We expect that you will have a good degree in Engineering or Physics with an experimental and modelling background.  We are particularly interested to hear from applicants with experience in surfaces, fluids and/or phase change.

If successful, you will become a member of the Wetting, Interfacial Sciences and Engineering Group within the Institute for Multiscale Thermofluids at the School of Engineering. You will join a vibrant community of PhD students, postdoctoral research associates and academics working in various aspects of surfaces and wetting, and will develop as a scientist benefiting from our track record, which includes publications in top journals, international collaborations and contributions to key international conferences.

Prof Glen McHale will also be a member of the supervision team for this project. 

Further Information: 

The University of Edinburgh is committed to equality of opportunity for all its staff and students, and promotes a culture of inclusivity. Please see details here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity

Closing Date: 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

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.


Applications are welcomed from self-funded students, or students who are applying for scholarships from the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: