Fluids research

Current and recent wind related research projects

Energy Island for sustainable economy (Modenerlands)

This is a COST Action EU project, looking at the concept of combining the three offshore energy resources in one Energy Island. The aim is to collaborate with colleagues from EU to foster the concept of Energy Island.

Part of this project we look at the available wind energy resources in the European water to identify the best location of such Energy Island taking into account the physical and environmental constraints.

Once the conceptual design of the Island is completed then sustainability analysis is carried out using both Life-Cycle Analysis and Cost-Cycle assessment.

External link: Modular Energy Islands for Sustainability and Resilience

Wind turbines on a platform Figure: The concept of Energy Island

Contact: Hassan Hemida, h.hemida@bham.ac.uk.

Wind Actions on Overhead Line Equipment

This project is sponsored by Network Rail. Wind loads can contribute significantly to the structural loads for Overhead Line Equipment installations. This in turn may have significant implications for the design suitability and spacings of OLE structures.

The aim of this project is to improve understanding of wind induced loads on OLE structures to inform future design parameters for OLE installations, specifically to provide more accurate drag coefficient values of the overhead catenary and contact wires and how they deflect in different wind scenarios. Wind tunnel testing, CFD simulations and FEM have been used in the investigation.

Montage of the catenary wire mounted in the UoB atmospheric wind tunnel
Figure: The catenary wire mounted in the UoB atmospheric wind tunnel and surface pressure from CFD results.

Contact: Hassan Hemida, h.hemida@bham.ac.uk.

Air Quality on Trains- HVAC and Exhaust Interactions Study

This project was sponsored by RSSB. The project aims to determine how exhaust emissions and HVAC interact and impact levels of air pollution onboard passenger trains and establish the factors that can be changed to improve air quality. The main objectives were:

  • Develop a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation model for the interaction between exhaust gas and HVAC.
  • Establish the role of different design and operational factors that influence air quality onboard trains.
  • Develop industry guidance for using CFD analysis and provide recommendations on design considerations to improve air quality on trains.

External link: CLEAR: Air Quality on Trains- HVAC and Exhaust Interactions Study (T1234).

 Montage of scale experiment, physical modelling and CFD across trains

Figure: The catenary wire mounted in the UoB atmospheric wind tunnel and surface pressure from CFD results.

Contact: Hassan Hemida, h.hemida@bham.ac.uk.

IAQ-EMS - Indoor Air Quality Emissions & Modelling System

Humans spend approximately 90% of their time in indoor settings hence indoor air quality (IAQ) is of critical importance for public health. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of IAQ on the exposure to and transmission of respiratory diseases and the current lack of knowledge and tools achieving healthier indoor environments.

Prominent experts in the field called for a paradigm shift to tackle the spread of airborne pathogens and pollutants in indoor environments. They compare such change to collective transformative public health efforts in improving water sanitation in the 19th century or in food quality and safety standards during the 20th century.

Such a step forward will change indoor air pollutant concentrations and exposure, assessment of which will require reliable predictive tools – indoor air quality models - to support researchers and underpin assessment of exposure and hence health impacts.

Montage of simulation results of ventilation in a room

Figure: Fulle-scale experiment, physical modelling and CFD models used in the investigations.

This project develops a comprehensive Indoor Air Quality Emissions & Modelling System (IAQEMS) with four key outputs comprising three modelling and one measurement component(s). Crucially, we will address a key existing shortcoming for the understanding of IAQ by modelling air dispersion at high temporal and spatial resolutions and implement a fully coupled physico-chemical model based on Large-Eddy Simulation (LES) of the key indoor spaces experienced by the UK population, thus providing a step-change in our ability to predict air pollution indoors, particularly hot spots and in the context of a changing ventilation paradigm, with wide reaching implications.

This Chem-LES tool is based on the code Multiflow3D. In addition, we are developing a simpler, flexible multi-box model (MBM-Flex Tool) that can be applied to any indoor environment at modest computational cost together with an underlying Pollutant Inventory Tool. These three tools are evaluated against tailored measurement campaigns in five key indoor spaces. Contact: Bruño Fraga.

Current and recent water related projects


IntelWATT is a EU Horizon 2020 funded project which aims to create Intelligent Water Treatment Technologies for water preservation.

This is being combined with energy production and material recovery in energy intensive industries. As one of 20 international partners, University of Birmingham is contributing through the design and development of a high-pressure reverse osmosis system for use in the metal plating industry.

Based on unique batch reverse osmosis technology invented by our group, the system will recover toxic chromium from the wastewater of a metal plating plant serving the German automotive industry.

It will reduce energy consumption about 50 times, enabling the chromium and other chemicals to be reused in the plating process. Contact Philip Davies.

External link: intelWATT | Intelligent Water treatment for water preservation | H2020

 Researchers in the lab standing next to high-pressure batch reverse osmosis system

Figure: High-pressure batch reverse osmosis system at University of Birmingham


INDIA H2O is about developing high-recovery, low-cost water treatment systems for saline groundwater and wastewater. The project is jointly supported by the EU Horizon 2020 programme and the Department of Biotechnology, India.

We are focussing our efforts on the arid state of Gujarat where salinity is a widespread problem. The University of Birmingham has developed a high-recovery reverse osmosis system that can convert a large fraction of saline groundwater into clean drinking water.

Working together with our partners at Pandit Deeyandal Energy University in Ghandinagar, we are developing two field trials of this technology. One of these is based in a village in the coastal region of Gujarat where it will purify the groundwater as well as providing irrigation for salt-tolerant crops.

This solution is energy efficient and driven by solar. The projects draws together expertise from Denmark, Netherlands, Spain as well as UK and India. (contact Philip Davies)

External link: Low-cost Water Treatment Systems | INDIA-H2O

SLAWP is a project funded by Network Rail Southern Region, which aims to improve railway lineside asset performance in extreme weather conditions. This goal is achieved by evaluating Network Rail's existing weather thresholds, assembling extensive datasets that encompass asset features, such as performance and failure, in relation to pertinent weather conditions, and by systematically categorising and scrutinising faults with a particular emphasis on train minute delays.

Picture5Figure: Field trial at Lodhwa in India

Through this data-driven approach, the project has successfully identified network areas highly susceptible to disruptions from tree and leaf fall, as well as regions where drought conditions could potentially cause incidents and delays.

In its forthcoming second phase, SLAWP plans to leverage machine learning techniques to create predictive models, thereby facilitating more proactive and efficient maintenance of railway lineside assets. Contact Dr Soroosh Sharifi.

STORMS - Strategies and Tools for Resilience of Buried Infrastructure to Meteorological Shocks

STORMS is an UKRI-funded project aiming to develop a comprehensive weather-related risk assessment framework for buried infrastructure, which include cables and pipes vital to our daily lives.

The framework will be applied to understand the potential impacts of weather events and climate change on these infrastructures. The project team will also co-develop adaptation measures with stakeholders to increase resilience to these extreme events.

Map of southern England highlighting treefall incidentsFigure: Frequency Heat map of Treefall incidents across the Southern Region

The aim will be accomplished through five interrelated work packages. This includes:

  1. creating a broad-scale modelling methodology for hydrological conditions;
  2. identifying current and future hydrological and meteorological scenarios posing risks to buried infrastructure;
  3. employing advanced hydrodynamic modelling and vulnerability analysis to understand how buried pipes and cables respond to varying conditions;
  4. integrating the developed models and datasets for a comprehensive risk assessment;
  5. co-developing resilience and adaptation strategies with stakeholders.

The project is expected to deliver significant societal and economic impacts. By enhancing decision-making capabilities among infrastructure operators and utility companies, the research can lead to fewer service disruptions, potential cost savings, and increased resilience of infrastructure systems in the face of meteorological shocks and climate change. Contact Xilin Xia.

Batch Reverse Osmosis: Desalination with minimum wastage of energy and water

This project is about using state-of-the-art techniques to monitor and predict flow and fouling phenomena in a reverse osmosis (RO) desalination system at a microscopic level.

The focus is on optimising a batch RO system which uses a cyclic unsteady process, which has the advantage of lower energy consumption and reduced risk of fouling.

This is done computationally using a high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD) method of direct numerical simulation (DNS) and experimentally using a visualisation and measurement technique known as micro-Particle Image Velocimetry (micro-PIV).

This is subsequently integrated into a membrane module scale using reduced-order modelling, before tested on a full-scale practical system. Contact Hasna Fadhila/Philip Davies.


Montage of images connected to flow and fouling studies in membrane channel of an RO systemFigure: Flow and fouling studies in membrane channel of an RO system


The abundant waste heat from natural phenomena (e.g. solar, geothermal) or human activities (e.g. effluent of desalination plant, produced water from shale gas) could be a source for the rising demand for energy consumption.

Given the energy intensity of water treatment technologies, NID2WATER which is a Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellowship project that was funded by UKRI, aims to develop a Non-Isothermal Donnan-Dialysis as a novel method beyond iso-thermal Water pre-Treatment paradigm for Energy Reduction in desalination. Donnan-dialysis is a promising method that can continuously filter certain ions with low energy consumption.

NID2WATER investigates the Donnan-dialysis under temperature gradient at molecular (nanometer) and bench-scales. Through a combination of experimental and theoretical (non-equilibrium thermodynamics) investigations, we are pushing the boundaries of smart water filtration in sustainable water treatment.

Finally, NID2WATER will be combined with the batch-reverse osmosis set up at the University of Birmingham which expects to enable 70% recovery of critical elements (e.g. Li) from  concentrate. Contact Amer Alizadeh/Philip Davies.

Constructed Wetlands Research

The constructed wetlands research at the University of Birmingham is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and aims to compare woody and herbaceous constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment and greenhouse gas emissions.

The University has 8 pilot scale wetlands testing the use of herbaceous and woody constructed wetlands for treating synthetic wastewater at a tertiary stage any measuring their greenhouse gas emissions.

This research will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the wastewater treatment sector and improve nutrient removal to help make rivers cleaner. Contact Dee Phillips/Philip Davies.

The pilot scale constructed wetlands in the lab.Figure: Pilot scale constructed wetlands at the University of Birmingham

Alleviating the Impacts of Gaza’s Energy Crisis on Population’s Well-being through Sustainable Electricity Generating Technology (2019-2023)

Home to nearly two million people including 1.4 million refugees, the blockaded Gaza Strip has long struggled with severe electricity shortages. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this acute energy crisis is pushing Gaza Strip to the verge of disaster with serious implications on health, water and sanitation sectors.

Currently, only 38% of Gaza’s electricity needs are met, leading to people receiving less than 6 hrs per day and hospitals providing minimal services supporting only critical functions such as intensive care units. This electricity crisis coupled with the continuous conflict causes high levels of stress that affects people’s physical, mental health and well-being.

With Gazan and UK partners, this project aims to assess the impact of electricity shortage on the general population’s and refugees health and well-being and to co-develop a novel pilot plant to provide clean and affordable electricity using the abundant solar energy.

The Solar Energy System in the Gaza Strip.Figure: Solar Energy System installed at Women Health Centre in Jabalia Refugee Camp, Gaza Strip.

Contact: r.k.al-dadah@bham.ac.uk

Capacity Building in Egypt for Enhancing Water Availability, Food Security and Renewable Energy using MOF Adsorption Heat Pumps (2022-2023)

Rising populations, rapid economic development and environmental degradation are reducing water availability in Egypt.

By 2025, it is estimated that water supply to reach the scarcity level of 500m3/capita. Also, clean cooling is essential for food security through enhancing agriculture and animal production from greenhouses and dairy farms. Egypt has abundance of land, sunny weather and high wind speeds, making it ideal for renewable energy projects.

This project aims to support capacity building at Egypt - Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST) through developing researchers’ skills to carry out high impact research in areas most relevant to Egypt national priorities and engaging with the wider community and policymakers. This will be achieved through comprehensive knowledge transfer program on MOF adsorption heat pump technologies including training, workshops, seminars and dissemination of findings in academic conferences and journals.

Water desalination and cooling pumpFigure: Adsorption heat pump for water desalination and cooling applications
using advanced Metal Organic Framework Materials.

Contact: r.k.al-dadah@bham.ac.uk