Civil and Environmental Engineering

The blog of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Surrey

PhD Studentship in Computational Mechanics of Porous Metallic Materials

We are looking for an enthusiastic and self-motivated person who meets the academic requirements for enrollment for the PhD degree at the University of Surrey.

The Award

The scholarship provides a tax-free stipend of £15,000 per year and UK/EU tuition fees. This studentship is funded by the European Commission. This scholarship can be awarded to an overseas-fee paying student if the fee difference between the EU and overseas fee is funded by other sources.

The Project

Deformation of a metallic hollow sphere foam under local load.This project focuses on applications of metallic foams where structural functionality is combined with energy absorption, damping, heat insulation, and noise silencing.

How realistically is air quality compliance followed?

The current practice in many developing part of the world for assessing the air quality compliance is based on simple computation of the count of number of exceedences in a given year, without giving any consideration to the distribution function of an pollutant in the ambient air.

Infrastructure systems and geographical maps

One of the pleasures on studying infrastructure networks is the abundance of geographical maps. A good map tells more than a thousand words, and it is often through maps that we can gain understanding and communicate how infrastructure systems interact. Maps do not simply relay the world as it is, but rather give a particular viewpoint by illuminating and magnifying particular aspects that are of interest. It is perhaps not surprising that artists through the years have taken maps as inspiration.

Broodway Boogie Woogie

Piet Mondrian’s view on New York in his Broadway Boogie Woogie (1943)

Piet Mondrian aside, even our utilitarian day-to-day maps can be awe-inspiring. The highly stylized London Underground map is a great emblem of design in the 20th century.

Detail of London Tube Map

A detail of the London Tube Map (2013)

Some maps, I keep using in research presentations. Not because they are on a par with the Broadway Boogie Woogie or the London Tube Map, but because they are illustrating a fundamental point. The following pair of maps, derived from UK Census Data of 2001, illustrates how differences in the spatial distribution and density of residences and workplaces are bound to give rise to substantial daily commuting streams.

Population Map

The distribution of residential and workplace population in southwest England

Smart-phones and other widely available technologies put map making power to the masses, opening up opportunities to investigate and map in detail our interaction with the infrastructure. Here is one map showing my own travel speed when cycling through town. It shows how analysing individuals’ travel behaviour can contribute to understanding the performance and efficiency of the infrastructure system.

Map of Commuting Traces

GPS traces of bicycle commutes (presented on top of Ordnance Survey background data)

“Blue Sky” in Megacities!

The colour of sky in most megacities (population >10 million) is rarely “blue” nowadays! This is because the densely packed high-rise buildings severely restrict the self-cleaning capabilities of compactly populated cities. Ever growing number of on-road vehicles, resuspension of the dust, and anthropogenic activities have been found to exacerbate the levels of ambient air pollution. Moreover, there is yet another mega pollution source that must be addressed: the cities themselves! Through the buildings’ high energy consumption, the cities themselves are indirect pollution sources. Most megacities are facing challenges nowadays in the quest for their sustainable growth, without compromising the air quality and urban way of life. When addressing urban sustainability, the issue of urban and building design, as well as human behaviour comes into the picture, as this is where huge gains can be made in energy reduction and air pollution. This is of particular importance for cities that will grow in megacities, and megacities which will grow into super megacities, in the next one or two decades, as is the compounding problem of global climate change and the impact this will have on indoor and outdoor air quality and energy consumption.

Our new directions article titled as “Can a “blue sky” return to Indian megacities”, recently published in Elsevier journal Atmospheric Environment, raises these issues. This article can be accessed online through this link for detailed information on this topic.

Walking along the beach: do you aware there are quite a few geotechnical phenomena? (1)

One of the most pleasant things to do in a summer is to spend a few hours on the beach. Do you aware that there are quite a few geotechnical phenomena while you stay on the beach?

You may see loads of kids building sand castles on the beach. Some of them may use very wet sand and some may use relative dry sand. How to make a strong sand castle? To answer this question, you first need to understand what makes a sand castle stand firmly? It is capillary force produced by water within sand. That is suction coming from surface tension, which holds sand particles together. The finer the sand particles, the stronger the capillary forces. That is why you cannot make gravel castle due to the too big particle sizes. And you cannot make strong sand castle using very wet sand, because there is no capillary force if the sand is saturated by water. There should be both air and water existing within the sand. To make a strong sand castle, the optimum ratio of water to sand by weight is between 1:10-1:5.

In my next blog, I will introduce other geotechnical phenomena on the beach.

Mechanical testing in the structures lab

Mechanical testing in the structures lab is probably the most reliable method to fully understand how materials and loading interact in different types of structures such as plates, beams or columns. Physical and theoretical models are very useful towards understanding the basic behaviour, although when dealing with materials such as steel, concrete or glass there is always room for surprises. For example, one might find when testing two identical beams that one beam can resist for example 30% higher load than the other one. Or for instance the failure load of one reinforced concrete beam with high concrete compressive strength can be lower than an identical beam with slightly lower concrete strength. What causes these unexpected results?


Figure – Example of mechanical test in the structures lab at University of Surrey (Dept. of Civil Engineering) to look at fatigue and crack propagation in steel girders (project supervised by Prof. M. Chryssanthopoulos)

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