PhD Student “Interplay between rheology, topography, and deposition in debris flow mechanics” (m/w/d)

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research
March 30, 2024
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Contract Type:Other
Working Time:Negotigation
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WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF

The WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF is part of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL and thus of the ETH Domain. WSL focuses on the sustainable use and protection of the environment and on the handling of natural hazards. WSL employs approximately 600 people, of whom 140 work at SLF in Davos.

The research unit Alpine Mass Movements investigates the mechanics of gravitational mass movements occurring in mountain environments and contributes to mitigation and land-use planning solutions and is looking for a

PhD Student “Interplay between rheology, topography, and deposition in debris flow mechanics” (m/w/d)

Debris and mud flows pose a considerable global hazard, resulting in numerous fatalities and causing substantial damage to infrastructure. These flows consist of a mixture between solid particles of different sizes and a viscous interstitial fluid. Due to their destructive nature, detailed field measurements are difficult. On the other hand, the presence of water renders small-scale flume analyses prone to scale effects. Hence, numerical models can represent very useful tools to bridge the gap between the laboratory and field scales as well as better understand debris flow mechanics and mitigate their impacts.

In this PhD work, you will develop a multi-method and multi-scale framework for the analysis of debris and mud flow mechanics. On the basis of recent work in our group, a SPH-DEM model will be further improved to simulate different solid / fluid mixtures. Calibration and validation of the model will be performed based on existing documented data, and will involve fluid and solid stresses homogenization. In a second step, laboratory experiments will be performed in a new 3D printed flume setting with strong focus on the interplay between rheology and topography, affecting flow mechanisms (e.g., thickness and velocity profiles-evolution along and across the flow, superelevation, overflow and landing upon terrain jumps, deposition patterns) and boundary forces. Particular attention will be devoted to the analysis of the fluid to solid transition (deposition) and the effect of the interstitial fluid on the granular stress (force chains). The SPH-DEM model will be applied to this small-scale complex topographical setting and then upscaled to simulate real documented debris flow events at Mira Bova, GR and Illgraben, WS, in collaboration with Dr. Brian Mc Ardell. Finally, the effectiveness of existing mitigation strategies will be tested and on the basis of the results, some proposals for improved measures will be formulated. You will intensively participate in laboratory and experimental studies (flume and Mira Bova). You will publish your results in high-ranked scientific journals, present them at international conferences and contribute to teaching activities at ETH Zurich.

You have a MSc in Environmental, Hydraulics or Civil Engineering and you have used/developed numerical models. Ideally, you have some experience with soil mechanics, natural hazards applications and particle-based methods (SPH and/or DEM). You must be fluent in English and German. Mountaineering skills are beneficial as the work will also involve field work in alpine environments. Please send your complete application to Jasmine Zollinger/ Human Resources SLF, by submitting the required documents via our application portal. Applications by e-mail or post will not be considered. If you have any questions, please contact Prof. Dr. Johan Gaume, phone +41 (0)81 417 03 82. The WSL strives to increase the proportion of women in its employment, which is why qualified women are particularly called upon to apply for this position.

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