Skip to main content

Computational Fluid Dynamics modelling of debris flow runout

Academic lead
Dr Raul Fuentes, School of Civil Engineering
Dr Duncan Borman, School of Civil Engineering, Dr Andy Sleigh, School of Civil Engineering, Prof Jeff Peakall, School of Earth and Environment, Dr William Murphy, School of Earth and Environment
Project themes
Geophysical flows, Particulate flows, sediments & rheology

In this project the student will model debris flows using CFD methods to obtain predictive tools for the travel distance and extent of debris flows. The CFD models will be tested against inter alia field observations and flume experiments.

Debris flows exist in a variety of environments and often are generated from debris stored in valley heads. They are also often large volume and extremely rapid (Cruden and Varnes, 1996).

The challenges posed to infrastructure development by this category of slope failures derive from the velocity of the flowing mass; the particle size distribution of the landslide (see figure 1); and poor understanding of the mechanics of their movement and therefore their travel distance. Hence, damage is caused by a fluidized sliding mass impacting on downslope infrastructure and can be catastrophic. The travel distances and fluidity make prediction of flowslide movement patterns difficult. Some initial work is showing that CFD has great potential in improving both the understanding and predictions of debris flows and hence, their potential for damage.

Some groups are emerging, like that of Professor Pastor at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (UPM). Note it is anticipated the student will spend time in Madrid working with them.