Computational Modelling Group

Vertical turbulence structures in the benthic boundary layer as related to suspended sediments

Research Team
Charlie Thompson
Hachem Kassem

Sediment Turbulence Experiment at HR Wallingford's Fast Flow Facility.

There is a genuine need for better, more robust modelling of suspended sediment transport in the coastal zone, both to understand its morphological evolution and it's impact on biogeochemical cycling, ecosystems services and to guide engineering applications such as dredging and defence schemes against erosion and flooding.
The suspension of sediment in turbulent flows is a complex case of fluid-particle interaction, governed by shear stresses (momentum exchanges) at the bed and within the benthic boundary layer (BBL). The intermittent transfer of momentum is a manifestation of coherent turbulent vortex structures within the flow. The passage of such structures (or clusters of) is often related to perturbations of bottom sediment, which may be entrained and maintained in suspension if sufficient turbulent energy is provided. The first part of my PhD investigated the temporal and scale relationships between wave–generated boundary layer turbulence and event–driven sediment transport in oscillatory flow in the nearshore. This involved complex statistical, spectral, quadrant and wavelet analysis of high frequency nearshore measurements of turbulence and suspended sediments (medium sand), collected as part of the EU-funded Barrier Dynamics Experiment II (BARDEX II). The following step aims to develop a 3D numerical model in OpenFOAM which would reproduce the fine scale turbulence structures observed over a fixed rippled bed in oscillatory flow. The 3D velocity field, turbulent components, correlations (stresses) and quadrant structures will then be linked to observed sediment resuspension events. The model will be validated against a set of laboratory experiments undertaken at the Fast Flow Facility at HR Wallingford.


Physical Systems and Engineering simulation: CFD, Complex fluids, Earth surface dynamics, Geophysics, Oceanography, Sediment transport, Turbulence

Simulation software: OpenFOAM

Visualisation and data handling software: ParaView

Software Engineering Tools: Emacs, Git

Programming languages and libraries: C++, Maple, Matlab

Computational platforms: Iridis, Linux, Windows