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Research themes

Fluid dynamics is a broad research topic which encompasses a very wide range of applications and research techniques.

Fluids include both gases and liquids, and problems of interest within this CDT range in length scale from micrometres (e.g. ink-jet print heads) through to thousand of kilometres (e.g. atmospheric flows), with almost everything in between.

Methodologies that are covered in our programme include:

Data-driven methods for fluid dynamics. Techniques using AI and machine learning for combining information from experimental and simulation data with the underpinning physics and carrying out statistical based analysis and optimization. These approaches are already being applied to address complex flow challenges at Leeds, and have the potential to transform future research practices, across multiple areas of fluid dynamics including atmospheric dynamics for weather and climate forecasting, control and design in advancing industry processing and biomedical applications.

Advanced Computational and Analytical Tools. Efficient simulation methods for fluid dynamics equations that exploit modern computer architectures (algorithms and software for parallel and heterogeneous systems; adaptive, high order and multilevel schemes; etc.). Multiphase and multiscale fluid simulations including particle-based and non-continuum methods (MPM, LBM, DPD, MD, etc.). Use of asymptotic methods and of dynamical systems approaches, such as reduced models and bifurcation theory, to study limiting regimes, stability and turbulence transition.

Multiscale experimental techniques. Visualisation and measurement of flows including multiphase flows (MULTIForm Laboratory), particle laden/sediment flows (Sorby Laboratory) and transport of droplets and aerosols (Bio-Aerosol Chamber). At more extreme length scales, students will also gain exposure to atmospheric measurement techniques and training in our new microfluidic laboratory, which supports advanced microscopic analyses of complex fluids and their interactions with biologically/industrially relevant materials.

Multi-physics and complex fluids. Research at Leeds includes problems that combine fluid dynamics with other physical processes such as magnetohydrodynamics, chemical reactions in combustion, and biological systems. We also have significant expertise in fluids with complex rheology – including viscoelastic fluids (polymers and biological fluids), anisotropic fluids (liquid crystals and ice) and multiphase fluids (including colloids, aerosols and suspensions) – and surface interactions such as wetting, porous and flexible substrates, and a wide range of fluid structure interaction problems.

Application Areas. Students can choose projects that apply their multi-disciplinary fluids expertise across a broad range of possible applications for which there is a critical mass of expertise at Leeds. Application areas include Clean Energy, Transport, Climate & Weather, Buildings & Cities, Environmental Flows, Advanced Manufacturing (see more detail below).

Our activities span a range of disciplines across the University of Leeds:

Research at the Centre comes under themes:

1. Clean Energy

Fluid dynamics plays a pivotal role in almost all forms of renewable energy generation, obvious examples being wave and wind energy devices. However, energy generation from nuclear fusion requires a detailed understanding and control of plasmas due to the extremely high temperatures involved, and many of the challenges being addressed in the decommissioning of historical fission power generators involve understanding and handling particle suspensions and multiphase flows.

2. Transport

In addition to conventional aerodynamics and hydrodynamics with shape optimisation to reduce vehicles’ drag (we focus primarily on low Mach number configurations at Leeds), we also engage with the transport sector through combustion and heat transfer research. For the former, our focus is on alternative/greener fuels, including their ignition properties and burn rate, and their impact on combustion stability and efficiency. Examples of the latter include design of novel heat exchangers in jet aircraft (the higher the operating temperature the greater the efficiency) and of batteries and fuel cells for electric powered vehicles.

3. Climate & Weather

Climate change and associated extreme weather events provide one of the largest global challenges to society, critically impacting many of the UN sustainable development goals. Fluid dynamics is central to our weather and climate models, controlling motion in the atmosphere, oceans and ice sheets. Also crucial is the coupling of the fluid flow to other physical and chemical processes. The multidisciplinary approach of programme is ideally suited to ensuring pull through of the latest methodological advances in numerical modelling and machine learning for fluid dynamics and multi-physics to address these challenges. The University’s expertise in this area is reflected in our Met Office Academic Partnership and our hosting of the directorate of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and was recognised by the award of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2021.

4. Buildings & Cities

Fluid flow is critical to tackling challenges around indoor and outdoor air pollution, building and infrastructure safety, addressing net-zero and adapting to extreme weather and climate change. Leeds’ expertise in real-time computational models and machine learning approaches applied to large scale, complex and unsteady urban flows can enable crucial insights for wind loading, the transport of pollutants and building ventilation. Experimental chamber facilities combined with CFD and zonal airflow models support the development of technologies both for energy efficient heating and ventilation and for understanding of exposures and health impacts of indoor pollutants.

5. Environmental Flows

Fluid flows in the environment are crucial in predicting and mitigating a range of environmental risks, whether from flooding, debris flows and sediment transport in the oceans and rivers through to soil stability and landslides. These problems are often multi-physics, involving interactions with solid structures or multi-phase flows (sediment transport, soil stability), bringing together the need for experimental measurements to refine our theoretical models and new numerical methods to solve the resulting equations. Emerging problems, such as the buildup of microplastics in the oceans, are also of growing importance.

6. Advanced Manufacturing

The ability to model the flow of materials during processing is fundamental to the control and optimisation of manufacturing processes, where the availability of reliable experimental and CFD tools can significantly speed up the product development cycle. Furthermore, there is the potential for this to be further accelerated through application of data-driven methods. Fluid dynamics is also core to new digital manufacturing techniques such as inkjet printing that are replacing analogue methods. Flow can also be used to manipulate the microstructure of complex materials enabling the manufacture of materials with unique properties: understanding the inter-connection between microstructure, rheology and flow is also central to the challenge of polymer recycling.

7. Health

Whilst fluid flows impact many aspects of human health, and that of biological systems more generally, the proposed areas of focus within the programme reflect our cross-disciplinary expertise in understanding and modifying cardiovascular and vascular flows, design and operation of medical devices and mechanisms for drug delivery (e.g. via sprays, suspensions and injections). A further distinctive feature at Leeds is around modelling and control of aerosol transmissible and bacterial biofilm related diseases, which largely rely on understanding and manipulating the mechanics of infectious materials in the environmental, medical, and biological fluid systems as well as linking this to human behaviour.

8. Astrophysics & Geophysics

Fluid flows occur in a vast range of geophysical and astrophysical settings, many of which are studied at Leeds. These include dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans (waves, hydrodynamic instabilities and bifurcations, turbulence, data assimilation), flows at the Earth’s surface (flooding, beach dynamics, porous media, glaciers), planetary and extrasolar planetary dynamics (the geodynamo, planetary dynamos, tidal interactions between exoplanets and stars, planet formation), solar and stellar dynamics (dynamo theory, magneto-hydrodynamic instabilities and turbulence), as well as galactic and extragalactic dynamics on the largest scales.