PhD opportunity: High-fidelity aero-hydro-elastic modelling of offshore wind turbines in extreme conditions

Director of studies: Dr Edward Ransley

2nd supervisor: Dr Martyn Hann

3rd supervisor: Dr Shanshan Cheng

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 1 October 2019.

Project description

As a consequence of climate change, the world’s oceans are getting stormier and there is a growing likelihood that offshore wind turbines (OWTs) will have to survive increasingly extreme conditions, including highly nonlinear fluid-structure-interaction (FSI). This, coupled with the increasing size of OWTs and the necessary exploitation of deeper/less favourable sites, represents considerable risk and uncertainty in OWT development.

A numerical model, combining the capabilities of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and structural mechanics, is required to understand the complex, aero-hydro-elastic behaviour of OWTs under extreme environmental conditions, such as typhoons in NW Pacific.

The aim of this PhD is, therefore, to develop and validate a fully nonlinear, coupled CFD and structural mechanics tool and use it to reduce uncertainty in the forces on OWTs during extreme conditions. To achieve this aim, the project has the following objectives:

  • Develop a numerical wave tank (NWT), using open-source CFD software OpenFOAM, to predict extreme environmental loading on OWTs.
  • Add solid-mechanics capability, within the NWT domain, to allow for coupled FSI simulation of OWTs.
  • Participate in bespoke physical modelling, in the COAST Laboratory, and use the results, along with existing benchmarks, to validate the numerical tool.
  • Use the tool to assess the high-order loading and dynamic response of OWTs, in extreme conditions.

The successful candidate will join the COAST Engineering Research Group as well as the MAterials and STructures (MAST) Research Group. The project will also be supported by the CCP-WSI, with considerable opportunities for training and development in fluid dynamics and software engineering. The candidate will also benefit from strong links with the Supergen ORE and PRIMaRE initiatives, providing access to research across the entire offshore renewable energy (ORE) field.


Applicants should have (at least) a first or upper second class honours degree in an appropriate subject, and strong mathematical background and preferably a relevant MSc or MRes qualification. Some experience with CFD and/or FEA is also preferable.


The studentship is supported for three years and includes full home/EU tuition fees plus a stipend of £15,009 per annum.  

Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates (approximately £12,285 per annum).

How to apply

General information about applying for a research degree at University of Plymouth is available at: 

Please apply via the online application form which can be found at: and click ‘Apply’.  

Please mark it FAO Aimee McNeillie, clearly stating that you are applying for a PhD studentship within the School of Engineering. Please attach a covering letter detailing your suitability for the studentship, a CV, research statement, and 2 academic references.

For more information on the admissions process, please contact Aimee McNeillie.

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 31 May 2019. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview mid June. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 30 June 2019 should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.