Forces and flow in dense suspensions

Dense suspensions of particles in liquid are found throughout nature, industry and the home: mud flows, slurries, cement and toothpaste being familiar examples. Understanding and predicting how these materials flow under applied forces is clearly of practical importance, but our fundamental understanding so far falls short of explaining most phenomena. For instance, stirring a suspension of flour in water leads to flow followed by solidification and fracture – but the material liquifies once the stirring stops. This intriguing behavior originates in the properties of the micron-sized particles, but we don’t yet have comprehensive explanations for how microscopic physics govern bulk engineering quantities such as viscosity. Predictive models for dense suspension flow will revolutionize future engineering practice, cutting waste across numerous sectors, not least construction and food & consumer product manufacture.

This project aims to shed light on the relationship between force transmission at the particle level and bulk flow, or “rheological”, properties. The student will have the opportunity to address this challenge using state-of-the-art simulation methods and experimental techniques. Work will focus on isolating contributions from particle-particle contact force transmission and particle-liquid interactions. The former will build upon understanding of contact mechanics, adhesion and friction; the latter will first assume the liquid is Newtonian, with the possibility of extending to non-Newtonian suspending fluids.

Dense suspension research in the School of Engineering at Edinburgh is closely tied to the Soft Matter group in Physics, as well as groups at the Universities of Cambridge, Durham, UCL and several prominent international groups. This position offers an opportunity to participate in an active and exciting area of fundamental research with real-world impact.

Closing Date: 

Thursday, October 1, 2020
Stirring a dense suspension leads to flow and solidification.
Stirring a dense suspension leads to flow and solidification.

Principal Supervisor: 

Eligibility: 

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 particularly welcome from candidates expecting to receive a first class degree in chemical engineering, physics, applied mathematics or a closely related subject.

Funding: 

Further information and other funding options.

Full funding (tuition fees and stipend) is available for UK or EU students. International students with their own scholarships (such as from their governments) are most welcome to apply but if selected an international student can only be awarded tuition fees at the Home/EU rate (and stipend).  Funding must therefore be secured to cover the difference between Home/EU rate and the International rate.  Please indicate a potential source of this 'top up' funding in your application.

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

Informal Enquiries: