PhD position at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh

Neutron and X-ray imaging of fluid flow and deformation in limestones

This PhD uses simultaneous Neutron and X-ray tomography of naturally and laboratory-deformed limestones to characterise deformation-altered flow systems.

Limestones, primarily composed of calcium carbonate, are approximately 10% of sedimentary rocks. They are characterised by extremely variable textures, dependent on their original solid components’ size and, being highly reactive, also on subsequent chemical reactions with mineral-bearing pore waters, resulting in highly variable porosity and permeability and pore network characteristics. Limestone deformation produces equally diverse mechanical and petrophysical consequences. However, unlike sandstones, they are still poorly studied, particularly geomechanically in the laboratory.

This PhD explores the impact of laboratory deformation on the flow properties of a range of limestones, creating deformation bands and/or fractures along which displacements up to a few mm occur. Laboratory-produced deformation bands are known to develop a distribution of local dilation or compaction and grain re-arrangement by local sliding, breakage or intense fragmentation. Similarly, fractures can be open or closed, single or organised in sets, sharing similar or different characteristics. Deformation bands and fractures can create excellent flow conduits or good seals and thus, facilitate or degrade fluid flow.

Herein, the deformation-fluid flow relationship will be examined primarily through 4D full-field measurements. The novelty lies in the simultaneous use of Neutron and X-ray imaging capability of the D50Tomo instrument during in-situ flow experiments under triaxial compression, which will be carried out in limestones containing natural and laboratory-induced deformation focusing on the flow patterns and preferential flow paths. We are currently developing a suitable Neutron-X-ray transparent cell with Lund University.

This PhD gives the student access to the pioneering D50Tomo ( at the Institut-Laue-Langevin (ILL), Grenoble, which in 2017 will become the first simultaneous Neutron and X-ray imaging facility. The project builds on existing collaborations with Lund University and ILL and the outcomes will have high international relevance and visibility.


Dr Elli-Maria Charalampidou, Dr Helen Lewis, Prof. Gary Couples (Heriot Watt University), Dr Stephen Hall (Lund University), Dr Alessandro Tengattini (ILL)

Informal enquiries should be directed to:

Important info:

  • Eligibility: Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Scholarships will be awarded by competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant.
  • Funding: Scholarships will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend of approximately £14,500 (at the RCUK approved rate) for the 36 month duration of the project.
  • Timetable: Closing day for applications is Friday 10th February 2017. Incomplete applications will also not be considered so all supporting documents must be provided by the closing date. Applications will be reviewed throughout March and applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by April 2017. Applicants MUST be available to start the course of study in October 2017.

How to Apply: Applicants may only apply for ONE of the project topics offered by the Institute of Petroleum Engineering. To apply, please complete the online application form: Please select PhD programme ‘Petroleum Engineering” or “Applied Geoscience” within the online application and indicate that you are applying for a scholarship in the Institute of Petroleum Engineering.

Please include the full project title and name of the supervisor in your application. You must provide a written proposal, at least one side of A4, outlining how you would approach the research project. You will also need to provide a CV, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcriptsproof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English) and references from two academic sources dated in the last three months (please enter your full name and the project title on the Referee Report Form and forward to your referees for completion).

For more information, please see the website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *