PhD Studentship in Engineering: Multiphase CFD modelling of Algal Growth inside Bioreactors Ref: 1412

About the award

Location: Streatham Campus, University of Exeter, EX4 4QJ

Supervision committee: Prof John Love, Dr Gavin Tabor, Dr Gianluca Montenegro

A photobioreactor is a device that uses microalgae cultures in water, to produce biofuel through exposure to light and carbon dioxide. Potential yields from these are much higher than from conventional farmed biofuels, with  production of biofuel from a photobioreactor reaching 136,900 litres per hectare, compared with commonly used soybean biofuel at 448 litres per hectare. However the development of these devices is still in its infancy and a significant improvement in our understanding of the fluid mechanics of these devices is needed, particularly in understanding the interaction and impact of the fluid flow on new generations of engineered micro-organisms being developed. This is where Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) can have an impact. CFD is the computational simulation of the equations of fluid flow, and can be used to predict the dynamics of different species (dissolved oxygen,  nutrients) and phases (air bubbles, algae) in the reactor.

The objective of the project is to validate the use of multiphase CFD to model a lab-scale bioreactor, and study the integration of the CFD with illumination modelling and algal growth using Population Balance Modelling. The open source CFD code OpenFOAM will be used as the CFD code for the research; there may also be an experimental component to the project.

The project involves collaboration between research groups in Exeter Biosciences (Prof John Love; industrial biotechnology) and Engineering (Dr Gavin Tabor; CFD modelling) and the Politecnico di Milano in Italy (Dr Gianluca Montenegro from the Internal Combustion Engine research group there).

The position is for 3 years, based in Exeter but with potential travel and an extended study visit to Milan.

Application Criteria

To apply you should have or expect to obtain a 2:1 or 1st class degree in Engineering, Physics or Mathematics and some understanding of fluid dynamics; knowledge of or experience in CFD, chemical or biochemical engineering would be valuable.


Application deadline:31st January 2014
Number of awards:1
Value:3 year studentship: Tuition fees (UK/EU) and an annual stipend equivalent to the research council rates.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Research

How to apply

To apply, you must complete the online web form. You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, covering letter and details of two academic referees. Your covering letter should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project.

For general enquiries please contact Fiona Ayre at