Physics projects for Y3 and Y4 students

Project description

Mud, glorious mud - sedimentation dynamics

(supervisor: Rudi Winter)

Nature of project: experimental, data analysis

Available to students on full-time physics degree schemes or joint students.

Project description and methodology

Sedimentation of particles from a liquid suspension is a process that occurs on a wide range of time and spatial scales: The cliffs of Constitution Hill and the coastline towards Clarach show prominent alternating beds of sandstone and mudstone which were deposited on the ocean floor by turbidity currents caused by under-sea avalanches on the continental shelf. In technical processes, e.g. in chemical reactors, sedimentation can cause a local build-up of reactants, which can degrade product quality and, in the worst case, lead to escalating reactions when a lot of sedimented material is released at once.

In this project, we will investigate sedimentation models from literature and devise a range of experiments which will test the assumptions inherent in these models. The focus here is on the planning of the experiment in such a fashion that it unambiguously establishes relationships between the parameters of the model.

While several such experiment concepts should be devised, one such experiment should be executed and analysed fully, with a view of establishing the applicability of the sedimentation models tested.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
(1) If sufficient lab access is possible, the dynamics of sedimentation can be studied experimentally across a wide-ranging parameter space, allowing to derive empirical models to describe the process. A range of particulates of different grain size and density will be sedimented under a variety of flow conditions, including deposition near obstacles and in channels for this purpose.

(2) The chosen model(s) will be used to predict sedimentation behaviour in subsequent experiments to test their validity, and extrapolations towards geological or technical processes will be attempted.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

This project is only available as a Y3 project.

Please speak to Rudi Winter (ruw) if you consider doing this project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. http://www.thegcr.org.uk/Sites/GCR_v19_C03_Site1768.htm
  2. ELPV Atiemo-Obeng, SM Kresta; Handbook of Industrial Mixing Science and Practice; Hoboken: Wiley (2004)
  3. HA Barnes et al.; An Introduction to Rheology; Elsevier 1989

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

This field is well studied, but the experimental conditions are critical and make reproducibility difficult at times. This is a project for very conscientious and careful experimentalists to ensure trends will be observable.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Drawings for fishtank and obstaclesend of November
Selection of materials from static sedimentation experimentsChristmas
Main experimental work concludedmid-March
Derivation and testing of modelsEaster

Students taking this project will have to submit a full risk assessment form