PhD – Numerical modelling for design of offshore aquaculture structures

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By Milthon Lujan

In recent times, the growing demand for high-quality protein sources, coupled with technological advancements has facilitated a range of developments in offshore sea-cage aquaculture. From a structural engineering point of view, many of these advances have led to durable and cost-effective materials for the construction of fish pens, reliable anchoring and mooring systems, cost-effective and practical pen designs, and various computer systems for the monitoring of structural components.

However, as field conditions such as wave height and energy, geotechnical properties and depth of the seabed affect the performance of every offshore aquaculture system, the engineering design of the system is completely dependent on field conditions. This means there is no such thing as the best pen design, most suitable construction material, or most cost-effective and reliable anchoring and mooring system, as a generic engineering solution to all the challenges associated with field conditions. In fact, for every offshore aquaculture project, subject to the field conditions, one needs to analyse, validate, verify and ultimately choose the best combination of the structural components for this particular project.

The proposed research project will employ Combined Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics and Finite Element Method (CSPHFEM) or other newly developed methods (such as the Hencky bar chain model) to simulate structural components of offshore aquaculture systems, as well as their soil-structure and fluid-structure interactions, while considering the effects of field conditions in both low- and high-energy areas.

The objective of this project will be to contribute answers to the following questions:

How does the sea hydrodynamics affect the integrity of the structure; considering various shapes?
Considering the geotechnical characterisation of the seabed, what are the most cost-effective and reliable anchoring and mooring systems?
What are the required collapse loads in different field conditions, should the pen construction material change?
Considering the energy intensity, what is the most reliable and optimum cage and anchoring design?
The results of multiphysics numerical simulation supported with our high-performance computing facilities will be validated against physical simulations at our model test basin, to offer realistic simulation of potential scenarios which ultimately helps stakeholders choose the suitable design, installation method, and construction material, and improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of a commercial-ready design for offshore aquaculture structures.

Primary Supervisor



The scholarship supporting this project provides:

a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years;
a relocation allowance of up to $2,000;
a tuition fee scholarship for up to 4 years (successful domestic applicants will be awarded an RTP Fees Offset and successful international applicants will be awarded a University of Tasmania Fees Offset)
The scholarship supporting this project is funded by the University of Tasmania and the Australian Government through the Research Training Program.


The project is open to domestic (Australia and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from International applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the PhD minimum entry requirements

Applicants from the following disciplines are encouraged to apply:

Civil Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Maritime Engineering

Selection Criteria

The project/scholarship is competitively assessed and awarded. Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional selection criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

A solid knowledge of soil-structure and fluid-structure interaction
A solid knowledge of numerical modelling methods such as (Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics, Finite Element and Computational Fluid Dynamics)
A solid knowledge of marine hydrodynamics
Knowledge of a programming language (e.g. Python and MATLAB)
Strong academic background in engineering and capability to work independently
Motivated to learn and have a scientific mindset and team spirit

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;

2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Ali Tolooiyan, if you have any questions about the project; and

3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above. 

– Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.

– As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.


$28,597pa for 3.5 years

Closing date

30 August 2021

Apply Now 

Source: University of Tasmania

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