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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T001100/1
Title: Improved prediction of cohesive sediment erosion based on inter-particle forces
Principal Investigator: Grabowski, Dr R
Other Investigators:
Goel, Professor S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ITER Systems Inc Natural England
Department: School of Water, Energy and Environment
Organisation: Cranfield University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2020 Ends: 16 December 2022 Value (£): 240,136
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Coastal & Waterway Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Jun 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 11 and 12 June 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Cohesive sediment (more commonly known as mud) forms the bed of many waterways and coastal environments and is thus the foundation on which critically important engineering structures are built. These structures alter local water flows that can induce the erosion (or scour) of sediment, resulting in the undermining of bridge piers, abutments and revetments; compromising the foundations of off-shore wind turbines; and causing the self-burial of submarine pipelines. Scientists have long known that the composition of the sediment will affect its resistance to erosion, but have not been able to develop universal models to predict erosion thresholds, rates or depths of scour. Research in this topic has been hindered by (i) inconsistencies in how erosion is defined and measured and (ii) the large number of sediment properties that control cohesion and adhesion in cohesive sediment. Better predictions of erosion thresholds and rates are urgently required to improve the assessment of scour risk to protect essential transportation and energy infrastructure, particularly as climate change is predicted to increase the frequency and severity of storms that drive the hydrodynamic forces responsible for sediment erosion.

This innovative study will advance the development of a physically-based predictive model of cohesive sediment erosion by focusing on the particle-particle and particle-fluid interactions that underlie cohesive and adhesive forces within cohesive sediment. It will combine (i) new field and laboratory research on erosion thresholds and rates of cohesive sediment and (ii) a novel computational dynamics model to simulate cohesive sediment mechanics and erosion dynamics. The research is composed of three work packages (WPs). In WP 1, erosion threshold and rates of natural and artificial sediments covering a diversity of sediment and water properties will be measured in the new EPSRC-funded UKCRIC facilities at Cranfield University. It will be the first time that the effects of sediment and water properties on cohesive sediment erosion will be investigated systematically in a single study using facilities capable of high-precision monitoring of water flow, the sediment bed surface, and the erosion of surface particles and aggregates. In WP 2, a Discrete Element Model (DEM) that represents cohesive sediment as a mixture of rigid, non-cohesive elements and smaller 'soft' cohesive elements will be combined with a Computational Fluid Dynamics model (CFD). This new coupled model incorporates several recent advances in the modelling of materials (a mixture of particle sizes with varying physical, chemical and mechanical properties) and permits the simulation of erosion at similar spatial and temporal scales as the laboratory analyses in WP 1. Finally, WP 3 will analyse, evaluate and compare the results of the empirical study (WP 1) and coupled numerical model (WP 2), employing statistical and probabilistic approaches to infer significant relationships between erodibility and sediment properties and evaluate the performance of the modelling.

The study will produce a step-change in the scientific understanding of cohesive sediment mechanics and the prediction of erosion thresholds, rates and depth of scour. The greatly improved predictions of cohesive sediment erosion will have wide ranging applications that will help to protect critically important aquatic environments and water resources from contaminated sediment and engineering infrastructure from scour-induced failure.
Key Findings
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.cranfield.ac.uk