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Enhanced tools for modelling erosion

Low-lying areas may be increasingly threatened by flooding as a result of global warming. An EU-funded consortium of engineers and scientists developed an improved computational tool for modelling phenomena related to soil–fluid interaction and erosion problems.
Enhanced tools for modelling erosion
Economic activities, population growth and the effects of climate change are all generating pressure on the available living space found in deltas, river basins and coastal areas around the world. Advances in engineering have enabled new land to be reclaimed from the waters but require bigger and better defensive structures to protect it from flooding.

Building structures in coastal areas and river basins can be highly challenging and requires costly experiments to be carried out on scale models. Furthermore, numerical models that can accurately take into consideration large soil deformations and the interaction between soil and water while being influenced by changing currents have not been available.

This problem was addressed by the 'Enhancement of the Material Point Method for fluid-structure interaction and erosion' (GEO FLUID) project, which developed a model for studying erosion. The consortium extended and generalised the material point method (MPM) to solve fluid–structure interaction problems. It allowed researchers to identify the interaction between fluids and structures and to model erosion and sediment transport in open channel flows.

Project partners used the Navier–Stokes equation for describing the motion of a viscous liquid and applied it to the MPM to simulate fluid–surface interactions. Scientists were able to model solid–fluid interaction problems and the installation of a geo-container on the bottom of a water reservoir. Geo-containers are large textile bags filled with soil and are used for repairing damaged dikes or building temporary dams.

The extended MPM can be applied to granular materials like sand or gravel. More complex problems could also be successfully modelled, such as seepage flow through porous material and the fluidisation of soil and sedimentation of granular material suspended in water. In addition, the MPM successfully modelled the scouring process whereby soil is eroded and subsequently transported to other locations.

GEO FLUID's computational tool can be used to design more effective geo-containers and to predict the effect of scouring and erosion. Therefore, the method advanced by the project can be used to determine regions at risk from flooding and related events and to help prepare evacuation plans or protect the threatened area.

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