Postgraduate research opportunities Harnessing hidden rivers: potential for low-carbon heat energy generation from culverted urban streams

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Key facts

  • Opens: Tuesday 14 November 2023
  • Deadline: Wednesday 10 January 2024
  • Number of places: 1
  • Duration: 4 years
  • Funding: International fee, Home fee, Equipment costs, Travel costs, Stipend

Overview

Many urban environments are underlain by extensive networks of culverted streams. These have previously been assessed for flood risks but remain underexplored assets for low-carbon energy generation. Given their proximity to high population densities, including areas of fuel poverty, and potential correlation of peak flowrates with highest heat demand periods, culverted rivers could provide a valuable heat generation opportunity at the coldest times of year.
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Eligibility

The applicant will hold, or be in the process of obtaining, a Bachelors (upper second or first class) or integrated Masters degree or equivalent in Civil Engineering, Hydrology or a similar discipline related to the proposed research.

The candidate should ideally:

  • have a desire to work in an interdisciplinary environment
  • be a practical self-motivated person who will lead the development and direction of their project and will ideally have research experience
  • have experience of working with GIS and performing site investigations, and an interest in developing these skills further

Having a good grasp on data analytics, advanced visualisation, and/or synthesizing qualitative and quantitative data would be a bonus.

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

Historic expansion of population centres has often resulted in closing over surface watercourses. As a result, many urban environments are underlain by extensive networks of culverted streams. One such location is Glasgow, which grew from the 6th century settlement of Mellingdenor on the banks of the now-culverted Molendinar Burn. Previous efforts have catalogued culverts to support flood risk management, but these hidden rivers remain underexplored assets for low-carbon energy generation in the heart of urban settings. Given their proximity to high population densities, including areas of high fuel poverty, and potential correlation of peak flowrates with periods of highest heat demand, culverted rivers could provide valuable localised resource for heat generation at the coldest times of year. However, more needs to be understood about factors which could influence on the utility and sustainability of culverts as a thermal resource, including extent of opportunity, urban heat island effect, climate change, and urban / industrial discharge.

The successful candidate, with support of an experienced supervisory team, would perform multidisciplinary research, including site investigation, digital mapping, and predictive modelling to deliver new insights into the untapped energy potential of urban watercourses in Glasgow. Project activities would include:

  • Synthesis of previous mapping efforts, historical archives, and field measurements to pinpoint culvert locations, connections, and dimensions, and make initial network-wide flow estimates.
  • Detailed investigation at selected sites to capture long-term water level and flow rate information to determine rainfall-discharge lag time and baseflow, interflow and runoff contributions and heat extraction potential.
  • Assessing role of urban heat island effect by performing measurements at rural and open urban water course control sites.
  • Combining future temperature and rainfall fluctuation ranges from UK climate projections and rainfall–runoff simulations to assess impact of different climate scenarios on culvert flowrate and heat capacity.
  • Creation of a screening tool to rank potential heat-extraction locations for greatest energy generation and socio-economic benefit, using energy demand and building stock data from for example, Scotland Heat Map and Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive training in a range of field (for example., flowmeter, GPS, laser measurements), digital (for example, ArcGIS, LowFlows2, ReFH2), and research (for example, Strathclyde’s award-winning postgraduate certification programme) skills. They would join a thriving low-carbon energy research group within Strathclyde’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the only engineering department in the UK to hold a Gold Athena Swan Award in recognition of its demonstrable commitment to being an inclusive and supportive place of work and study. As case study locations are developed, there will be opportunities to work with external industry, community, and government partners. Upon PhD completion, the candidate would be well-placed for a career in the renewable energy, hydrology, engineering consultancy, regulatory agency or governance sectors.

Applicants are strongly advised to make an informal enquiry about the PhD to the primary supervisor well before the final submission deadline.
 
Applicants must send a completed Hydro Nation Scholarship application form (https://www.hydronationscholars.scot/apply) and their Curriculum Vitae to Neil Burnside (neil.burnside@strath.ac.uk) by the final submission deadline of 10 January 2024.
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Funding details

Fully funded by Hydro Nation, pending final interview. The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes.

This project will be hosted by the University of Strathclyde. Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees.

Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 7 or 8 February 2024.

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Supervisors

Dr Burnside
Dr Neil Burnside

Strathclyde Chancellor's Fellow
Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Dr Bertram
Dr Douglas Bertram

Principal Knowledge Exchange Fellow
Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Apply

Applicants are strongly advised to make an informal enquiry about the PhD to the primary supervisor well before the final submission deadline.  Applicants must send a completed Hydro Nation Scholarship application form and their Curriculum Vitae to Neil Burnside by the final submission deadline of 10th January 2024. Selected candidate will face a final Hydro Nation interview on 7 or 8 February 2024.  

If there is any further information related to the opportunity you would like to include, please use this space to do so.

Number of places: 1

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