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PhD position on flocculation in plumes

Can you help predict and reduce the impact of sediment plumes in deep sea mining?

2 maanden geleden


Mekelweg, Delft, Zuid-Holland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
36 - 40 uur
€ 2395 - € 3061 per maand


The potential of deep-sea mining for metalliferous sediments, massive sulphides and poly-metallic nodules is presently explored by industries and academics. Manoeuvring, excavating and processing will generate plumes of suspended fine-grained solids, considered harmful to the deep-sea environment due to their potential of smothering and burying benthic fauna. To assess the impact it is essential to determine how far plumes are dispersed by bottom currents and how their suspended loads evolve with time. Numerical simulations used to predict the dispersion of mining plumes are likely overestimating the impacted area, as they do not take flocculation of fine particles into larger, faster-sinking aggregates into account

Flocculation is a process that is not well understood, and neither is the extent in which it affects plume dispersion. Adding up to uncertainty, current methods for in-situ monitoring of turbid plumes make use of optical and acoustic sensors sensitive to particle size, yet flocculation is not taken into account. Consequently, plume monitoring results may be significantly in error.

In this PhD position you will work on developing state-of-the-art experimental and analytical tools in order to establish a link between the mining equipment and the dynamics of the plume dispersion. The experiments to be conducted will be on large scale laboratory setups. Turbidity currents can be studied in a lock-exchange, while plume fully coupled plume dispersion experiments are to be conducted within a large flume. Within these experiments, the emphasis will be on how to influence the flow properties of cohesive sediment, aiming at minimal of said sediment plumes.

As a PhD-candidate, you will be part of a vibrant team of researchers in the PLUMEFLOC consortium. There is a strong collaboration going on with research teams from the environmental fluid mechanics department at TU Delft, they focus on micro-scale characterisation of the behavior of the cohesive sediment, and with Ocean Systems at the Dutch Sea Research Insitute (NIOZ), who will focus on measuring and characterizing sediment plumes and flocculation in the field. You will be supervised by Assistant Professor Rudy Helmons and Professor Cees van Rhee from the Submerged and Seabed Systems group. Here the research focuses on a pragmatic and fundamental approach to address the complex multiphysics processes related to dredging, mining and offshore equipment.


You should have the following qualifications:

  • MSc. degree in mechanical, civil, aerospace engineering, applied physics or a closely related field;
  • Strong background in fluid mechanics, ideally with experimental experience;
  • Strong mathematical/computational background (Matlab, Python);
  • Fluent communication skills in English, both written and oral;
  • The ability to work in a team.

In addition, it would be helpful to have:

  • Experience related to cohesive sediment (mud).


TU Delft offers PhD-candidates a 4-year contract, with an official go/no go progress assessment after one year. Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, increasing from € 2395 per month in the first year to € 3061 in the fourth year. As a PhD candidate you will be enrolled in the TU Delft Graduate School. The TU Delft Graduate School provides an inspiring research environment with an excellent team of supervisors, academic staff and a mentor. The Doctoral Education Programme is aimed at developing your transferable, discipline-related and research skills.

The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, discounts on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged. For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation.

Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact dr. ir. Rudy Helmons, Assistant Professor, Offshore and Dredging Engineering, email R.L.J. Helmons@tudelft.nl

For information about the application procedure, please contact Ms, Nathalie van Benthem, HR-advisor, application-3mE@tudelft.nl