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PhD Studentship - Unsteady aerodynamics of wings in complex environments

Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

Location:  Boldrewood Campus
Closing Date:  Sunday 31 July 2022
Reference:  1820022DA

Supervisory Team:    Zhengtong Xie,  Kamal Djidjeli

Project description

The large civil aircraft experiences extreme loads i.e., during turbulence and gusts.  It is a great challenge to avoid clear-air turbulence (CAT), and the implications of sudden erratic turbulence on the aerodynamic characteristics of a subsonic wing in the troposphere and lower stratosphere have not been investigated enough. In particular, there is very little research into how turbulent eddies generated by the terrain that surrounds an airport located in a valley would interact with a climbing/descending aircraft. 

The aim of this project is to investigate the interactions between CAT (or gusts), the aircraft wing, and the formed wake flow. We aim to understand the underlying mechanisms for these interactions, and significantly enhance the accuracy of their prediction, and therefore to have a much better risk assessment of the CAT or gusts.  Having tackled these problems will be beneficial to other applications, such as large wind turbines operating in gusty atmosphere, drones flying in extremely complex urban environments, front wings of race car loosing performance in wake generated by a preceding car.

This project will use Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) approach to investigate the effects of large-scale turbulence on the performance characteristics of an aircraft wing during cruise, take-off and landing conditions. Numerical simulations will be carried out using the developed CFD software at the University of Southampton. 

You will join a large and flourishing aerodynamics group ( engaged in a wide range of experimental and numerical studies of turbulent flows.  The project will benefit from close collaboration with other researchers and with colleagues in the collaborative project. You will be able to access the local and national supercomputers, and work closely with the UK Met Office colleagues through placements and regular meetings.   

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Zheng-Tong Xie, AFM Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 4493.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: 31 July 2022 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: For UK students, Tuition Fees and a stipend of £16,062 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. 

How To Apply

Applications should be made online. Select programme type (Research), 2022/23, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, next page select “PhD  Engineering & Environment (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Zhengtong Xie 

Applications should include

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

For further information please contact: 

The School of Engineering is committed to promoting equality, diversity inclusivity as demonstrated by our Athena SWAN award. We welcome all applicants regardless of their gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or age, and will give full consideration to applicants seeking flexible working patterns and those who have taken a career break. The University has a generous maternity policy, onsite childcare facilities, and offers a range of benefits to help ensure employees’ well-being and work-life balance. The University of Southampton is committed to sustainability and has been awarded the Platinum EcoAward.


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