DC04: Towards a unified constitutive model for saturated granular fluids and solids

DC04: Towards a unified constitutive model for saturated granular fluids and solids

Published Deadline Location
11 Jan 15 Mar Enschede

Job description

We are seeking a full time PhD researcher with interests in granular physics, continuum mechanics and computer modelling to join University of Twente (Netherlands), and work on a novel, unified constitutive model for saturated granular fluids and solids.
This project is part of the EU funded Marie Curie Doctoral Network POSEIDON – Improve offshore infrastructure resilience against geohazards towards a changing climate (www.poseidon-dn.eu). The overarching objective of POSEIDON is to develop, solutions to improve the resilience of offshore infrastructures. POSEIDON will train 13 researchers within a collaborative multidisciplinary and inter-sectorial network involving 9 universities, 3 research institutes and 4 industrial partners across Europe.

Background and aim:
Submarine landslides, from the mobilization to the transport of fluid-saturated sediments, involve the understanding and modelling of geomechanical processes at multiple length and time scales. One of the main challenges in submarine granular flows is the complex yielding transition from static to motion, which is governed by the spatially and/or temporally varying length scales, i.e., landslide threshold, and back to static conditions. This gap creates considerable difficulty in predicting the initiation and post-failure behaviour of submarine landslides. Questions such as the runout distance cannot be answered without understanding and quantifying the dissipation during this fluid-solid transition and back. The current frameworks (e.g., plasticity and effective stress theories) for modelling soil-fluid interactions going from fluid saturated solids to a fluid-dominated mixture have to be revised and improved.

Based on the simulation data of particle-fluid interaction (developed in a parallel DC project) and machine learning tools (GrainLearning) that aid constitutive modelling established in the group, we will enrich existing constitutive frameworks for describing the behaviour of saturated granular masses in the solid and fluid regimes, and their transition. Particle-scale simulations provide the essential data for this task, as they uniquely can inform the continuum framework. The end goal is to come up with a sensible model structure for a unified granular micromechanically based solid-fluid model by learning model structures from fully-resolved simulations particle-fluid systems, with the help of Bayesian learning.

i) Understand the capabilities of fluid-solid models for granular media and their limitations to model the collapse of saturated granular flows;

ii) Study the complex transitions from static to motion and back using coarse grained fluid-DEM simulations;

iii) Implement the unified model in a continuum solver to accurately predict the runout distance of submarine landslide and compare the results with experimental data.

Expected Results:
i) Assessment of the suitability of theoretical frameworks to describe solid-to-fluid (collapse) and fluid-to-solid (runout) transition in saturated granular masses;

ii) Micromechanical-based unified constitutive models that correctly capture these transitions;

iii) Comparison and validation via laboratory experiments.

Planned Secondment(s):
Dr Xue Zhang (University of Liverpool, 3 months): collaborate with the DC on the implementation of the new constitutive model/framework into a particle finite element code available at University of Liverpool.

Dr. Alex X. Jerves and Dr. Hans Petter Jostad (NGI, 3 months): discuss continuum frameworks for saturated granular fluid-solid transition; collaborate with the DC on the effect of particle shape on fluid-particle coupled systems; collaborate on the implementation and validation of the new constitutive model/framework with existing data.

Mr. Willem Hendrik Pater (State of the Art Engineering BV, 3 month): transfer the numerical results of submarine landslide simulations (e.g., runout distance, impact loads) onto the finite element model of offshore wind turbine foundations.


University of Twente (UT)


  • Obtained a MSc degree in a relevant field such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computational physics, applied mathematics, materials science, or related areas;
  • Good knowledge of the transport and constitutive behaviour of fluid-saturated sediments;
  • Sound programming skills in C/C++, Fortran, Python or equivalent;
  • Previous experience with rheological or plasticity laws for the constitutive modeling of sediments would be advantageous;
  • You are an excellent teammate, able to collaborate intensively with industrial and academic parties in regular meetings and work visits;
  • An appropriate qualification in the English Language together with excellent communication and organizational skills.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our company. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or disability status. Women are encouraged to apply for this position. This is part of the University of Twente’s strategy toward a diverse and inclusive working environment, supportive of excellence in research and education.

Conditions of employment

We offer you a very exciting position in an inspiring multidisciplinary environment. The university offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues in which internationalization is an important part of the strategic agenda.
  • We offer a full-time 4-year PhD-position, with excellent mentorship and a stimulating research environment.
  • Collaborations with a dedicated, dynamic research team and external parties from several European countries involved in the POSEIDON project.
  • The gross monthly salary will be ranging from € 2.770,00 (first year), increasing each year up to € 3.539,00 in the fourth year. Salary and associated conditions are in accordance with the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities (CAO-NU).
  • You will have a minimum of 232 leave hours in case of full-time employment based on a formal workweek of 38 hours.
  • A full-time employment in practice means 40 hours a week, therefore resulting in 96 extra leave hours on an annual basis.
  • We offer excellent fringe benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, a solid pension scheme, free access to sports facilities and a family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid).

The University of Twente is situated on a green and lively campus with lots of facilities for sports and other activities.

Additional information

As a PhD candidate, you will be enrolled in the University of Twente. The Ph.D project will be conducted under the supervision of prof. S. Luding and dr. Hongyang Cheng. An extended Supervisory Committee, including academic and industrial supervisors from The POSEIDON consortium, will guide the candidate during his/her PhD.

Please submit your application before 15 March 2024 via the ‘Apply now’ button, including:
  • Cover Letter: A maximum of two A4 pages, highlighting your specific interest in the position, your qualifications, and motivations for applying. This letter should clearly articulate how your background and experiences align with the requirements of this project
  • Detailed Curriculum Vitae (CV): The CV, should include, if applicable, a list of publications;
  • Bachelor and Master transcripts;
  • Contact Details of Referees: Provide the names and contact information of individuals who can professionally vouch for your qualifications and suitability for this position.

Master students who will graduate in the next coming months are welcome to apply. In that case, please provide an overview of the transcripts that are already available.

The deadline for application is 15 March 2024. The intended starting date is 1 September 2024, at latest.

You are welcome to contact prof. dr. Stefan Luding (email s.luding@utwente.nl) or dr. Hongyang Cheng (email: h.cheng@utwente.nl) for any questions you might have.

The first round of selection interviews is scheduled few weeks after the closure of the applications and interviews can be held through Microsoft Teams. A second round of interviews may be scheduled if necessary.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 1608


University of Twente (UT)

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Drienerlolaan 5, 7522NB, Enschede

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Application procedure

Application procedure

Make sure to apply no later than 15 Mar 2024 23:59 (Europe/Amsterdam).