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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Supervisors: Nicky White (Earth Sciences) and Andy Woods (BP Institute

Importance of the area of research:

Considerable research effort has been expended on the fluid dynamical problem of viscous fingering within a thin horizontal layer. Despite numerous potential academic and industrial applications, very little research has been carried out on the problem of viscous flow and fingering through much thicker layers where gravity buoyancy effects become increasingly important.

Project summary:

In this proposal, a combination of theoretical perturbation analysis, advanced numerical modelling, and laboratory experiments will be carried out. The results will be applied to a series of industrial and academic problems that range in scale from centimetres to thousands of kilometres. A key application is development of an understanding of fingering associated with upwelling mantle plumes on Earth. This project will exploit transformative digital technologies, satellite technology, and manufacturing processes within the context of essential cross-cutting research.

What the student will do:

In the first stage of the project, laboratory experiments will be designed and implemented to analyse viscous fingering. The results will be analyzed using scaling arguments and ;uid dynamical analysis. The student will then apply a quantitative understanding to the Icelandic plume which is the largest convective upwelling on Earth. A fluid dynamic understanding of convectively driven vertical motions will be developed.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Saffman, P.G. & Taylor, G. (1958). The penetration of a fluid into a porous medium or Hele-Shaw cell containing a more viscous liquid. Proc. R. Soc. Lond., Ser. A, 245, 312-329.

Tan, C.T. & Homsy, G.M. (1987). Stability of miscible displacements in porous media: radial source flow. Phys. Fluids, 30, 1239{1245.

Schoonman, C.M., White, N.J. & Pritchard, D. (2016). Radial viscous fingering of hot asthenosphere within the Icelandic plume beneath the North Atlantic Ocean Earth Planet. Sci.;Letts., 468, 51-61.

Follow this link to find out about applying for this project.

Other projects available from the Lead Supervisor can be viewed here.

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