PhD position OT-21987

Thesis title: Modelling the interaction between creeping snow and structures in a context of climate change


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INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) is a major player in research and innovation. It is a community of 12,000 people with 272 research, experimental research, and support units located in 18 regional centres throughout France. Internationally, INRAE is among the top research organisations in the agricultural and food sciences, plant and animal sciences, as well as in ecology and environmental science. It is the world’s leading research organisation specialising in agriculture, food and the environment. INRAE’s goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. Faced with a growing world population, climate change, resource scarcity, and declining biodiversity, the Institute has a major role to play in building solutions and supporting the necessary acceleration of agricultural, food and environmental transitions.

Work environment, missions and activities

Climate change is causing mountainside snowpacks to become wetter and denser. This change in snow characteristics results in a lower stability of snow packs on slopes which lead to higher interaction forces with mitigation structures, as demonstrated by the increasing number of snow rack failures. There is thus a need for improving knowledge on the interaction between creeping snow and structures accounting for these specific snow characteristics. 

The ultimate goal of the project to which the proposed thesis relates is to enable the design of more robust structures for stabilizing snow. In this aim, the development of a numerical model for the snow pack has been initiated. In parallel three on-site snow racks have been equipped with sensors to collect data, in particular in view of contributing to the model development.
The proposed thesis aims at investigating the interaction between creeping snow and structures, based on numerical modeling enriched with real-sites measurements and observations.

The main objective of the thesis is to develop a novel, adaptable 3D modelling tool for simulating forces acting on structures. This model will account for the different mechanisms with influence on the interaction between snow and structures. 

The scientific novelty in the considered modeling approach comes from the coupling between two types of numerical modelling for capturing the salient characteristics of the creeping snow. First, a continuous modeling approach (e.g. MPM or SPH) will be considered in the far field, where the snow pack is not influenced by the presence of the structure. Second, a Discrete Element Method (DEM) approach will be considered for modelling the snow pack in contact with the structure. This strategy is in particular motivated by the capacity of DEM to account for large strain, load redistribution and compression. In addition, DEM allows accounting for the interaction with any type of structure (continuous or porous, flexible or rigid). A first DEM model of snow is currently being developed.

The main objectives of the proposed position are:

-    To develop a new coupled 3D SPH-DEM numerical method, that can capture fundamental mechanical interactions of snow-structure interaction in a computationally-feasible manner;
-    To evaluate the model using field data available to IGE-INRAE;

- To undertake a parametric study to attain a mechanically-based understanding of interactions between  dry and  wet creeping snow packs with obstacles.
One of the main scientific challenges to be tackled is to develop and evaluate the properties of the DEM model for different types of snow, including the contact law, the size and shape of the aggregates being modelled, and the viscous properties relevant to creep; as well as identifying suitable rheological laws for the continuous model.  
In parallel, the candidate will be in charge of analyzing and interpreting the data collected on-site. They will be involved in any discussion related to the instrumentation and will join the visits on the instrumented structures.

General information
The successful applicant will be hosted by the laboratory IGE (INRAE, Grenoble) and will work under the supervision of Dr S. Lambert (IGE), Dr B. Chareyre (UGA-3SR), Dr T. Faug (IGE) and will benefit from collaborations with Dr G. Chambon (IGE).

Training and skills

Master's degree/Engineering degree

The candidate should hold a Master's degree and/or an Engineering diploma in the fields of applied mathematics or physics, mechanics, civil engineering, or numerical simulation. They must have a solid foundation in continuum mechanics and should have a strong interest in scientific programming (Python, C++). Experience in DEM modeling, in studies of flow-structure interaction and in coupling different numerical methods will be an undeniable advantage.  They should be capable of taking initiatives, working in a collaborative team, and communicating results with project partners both orally and in writing

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from (depending on the type of contract and its duration):

- up to 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: trainingcareer advise;
social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

How to apply

I send my CV and my motivation letter

Offer reference

  • Contract: PhD position
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Beginning: 01/10/2024
  • Remuneration: 2100 brut
  • Reference: OT-21987
  • Deadline: 25/06/2024
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