May. 03, 2021

Dalhousie University PhD Opportunity – Tidal Engineering


Article by Dalhousie University


The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) at Dalhousie and the Canadian National Research Labs (NRC) partnered late last year to offer PhD studentships for the first time. The PhD candidate selected on those will receive a stipend of approximately $33k a year for 4.5 years, with PhD tuition fees also paid on top, plus some additional funds to participate in professional activities (“soft skills” learning opportunities, hence the additional ½ year of funding.

Dr. Dominic Groulx, from the Mechanical Engineering Department was awarded one of those studentships, in collaboration with researchers from NRC, for a project titled: “Risk and Cost Mitigation through Determination of Tidal Turbine Loading under Real Turbulent Tidal Flow Conditions”. The description of the project taken from the application is presented as follows:

“The objective of this project is to build on the applicants’ labs ability to model and test hydrokinetic turbines to determine local and time-variant turbine blade loads. On the Dalhousie side, Dr. Groulx’s team has demonstrated the method needed to model real-tidal transient flow over a turbine as demonstrated in a previous OERA Open Calls project and determine numerically the spatial and transient load on a turbine as demonstrated through a Canada-France Project with colleagues from ENSTA Bretagne (France).

From this expertise, in an initial phase of the PhD project, using ANSYS CFX, the recruited PhD candidate will develop numerical models to simulate flow and study loads on a turbine and a small turbine array operating under the flow conditions expected in various Canadian tidal environment (Bay of Fundy, Artic, etc.).

As part of any complete numerical study, validation will be performed with experimental data obtained from physical testing, tow- or flume-tank at first. For this part of the work, not taking place until the 2nd/3rd year of the PhD, two options will be available to the research team: i) develop a small testing rig and perform the experimental testing at NRC, or ii) have the PhD candidate participate in data collection sessions abroad with colleagues performing corresponding work in the EU (DyLoTTA and MONITOR projects) or Australia.

The second phase of the project will be to apply the validated numerical method developed to determine blade loading and turbine interaction to real-life cases, proving its usefulness as an engineering design tool. Data from in-situ tidal testing will be used. This will be done through collaborations with Schottel-SME who as already showed interest in sharing in-kind data obtained from their tidal devices currently tested in Digby, NS. Additional data sets will also be sought during the 4 year PhD program from other tidal companies, discussions are already underway with Sabella (a France based company).

Finally, the third phase of this project will be to use the developed and validated numerical method to study the load behaviour on turbine blades as a function of various parameters (type of tidal flow, turbine design, turbine arrangement in an array, etc.) to extract a body of knowledge useful for engineers and researchers. The knowledge of spatio-temporal load variations is the starting point of material fatigue studies which will narrow down the estimated lifetime of turbine blades while in operation. Such knowledge will have a great impact on risk assessment and overall system operation cost. This research will contribute to the current and on-going projects at the NRC-OCRE by providing useful information on turbine performance assessments, which will be transferred to the IEC/TC114 committees working teams in the goal of developing better international industry standards in marine energy sector.“

The start date for this project, and the selected applicant, could be September, but could also be January 2022 (at that time, travel might be easier, and we should be back fully on campus). If it is January, there might be a possibility to also apply for an additional PhD scholarship at Dal which would bonify the stipend even more.

If interested in applying to this position, please contact Dr. Groulx at dominic.groulx@dal.ca before May 21st . Include a recent CV and transcripts (copies, no need for official ones at this time) from your master’s and bachelor’s degrees.