river

University of Hull scientist to address fundamental flaws in models of sediment transport and Earth surface flows

 

Research to better predict fundamental Earth surface processes, such as sediment and microplastic transport is being carried out at the University of Hull.

It follows a £700,000 Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Independent Research Fellowship awarded to Dr Rob Dorrell, a University of Hull Research Fellow, to develop more accurate methods of predicting natural and artificial sediment transport across the earth’s surface.

Dr Dorrell said: “Many people think of the Earth as a blue planet, it is not, it is a muddy planet. Over 60 per cent of the earth’s surface is composed of erodible sediment overlain by water. Sediment transportation therefore determines the evolution of the earth’s surface, where we live, and it is critical we understand how it will change into the future.”

Current sediment transport models have existed for nearly 100 years, but have questionable accuracy and ability to properly predict physical processes, which are very important in understanding and mitigating a range of natural hazards, such as floods and tsunamis. Dr Dorrell’s NERC Fellowship aims to significantly improve the accuracy of sediment transport models, by redeveloping fundamental theory from the ground up rather than modifying existing models. 

Dr Dorrell said: “The Fellowship will advance fundamental mechanics of environmental flows and in particular sediment transport process. Current theoretical models have sat in literature since the 1920s, and while people have recognised that these models are limited and flawed, until recently we have lacked the theory and technology to properly resolve and understand sediment-laden flow dynamics. The fellowship seeks to address this by integrating recent advances in flow measurement technology and fundamental fluid mechanics, validated by comparison to real-world sediment transport processes.”

 

“The award of this major project is fantastic news for the University. Dr Dorrell’s world-leading fundamental work will be vital in advancing our predictions of the impacts of climate change on a range of natural hazards into the future."

Prof. Dan Parsons, Director of the University of Hull's Energy and Environment Institute

 

The ambitious project will be directly supported by investment in a new globally leading fluid mechanics laboratory set up within the University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute, dedicated to state-of-the-art research in measuring turbulent, multiphase flows in the environment and industry.

Dr Dorrell said: “Current models assume that sediment is suspended by turbulent mixing processes acting at vanishingly small scales. However, recent research developed here at Hull has shown that flow-scale mixing processes actually control the suspension and transport of natural and artificial sediment in earth surface flows. The great thing advancing understanding of this problem is that it depends on integrating different techniques and disciplines from Earth Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics to Physics.”

Predicting sediment transport is important as it has implications across a range of different fields, from understanding pollutant and microplastic fluxes in the environment, and concomitant impact on ecosystems, understanding siltation and the impact on flooding and coastal erosion, to helping understand the past records of catastrophic hazards, such as tsunamis. The Fellowship is supported by academic collaborators from Asia, Europe and USA and a range of international NGO and GO partners, facing offshore renewable energy, oil & gas, natural hazards, environment pollution, and hydraulic engineering.

Prof. Dan Parsons, Director of the Energy and Environment Institute, added “The award of this major project is fantastic news for the University. Dr Dorrell’s world-leading fundamental work will be vital in advancing our predictions of the impacts of climate change on a range of natural hazards into the future.”

 

Media Enquiries

Please contact the Press Office on