Samantha Mahaffey

‌Samantha Mahaffey -


PhD Title:

Discrete Element Modelling of Floating Debris


PhD Project Details:

Flash Floods are characterised by high velocity ‘walls of water’ which impact vulnerable catchments with little warning time.  The impacts of Flash Flood events can be exacerbated by their ability to transport natural and anthropogenic debris, which impact structures, cause blockages and alter flow dynamics.


Though many modelling techniques are available to assess the impacts of flash flooding, limited attempts have been made to incorporate the effects of debris into flood analysis, and a paucity of available data makes validating these models difficult.


In this study, a numerical modelling tool will be developed, which introduces floating debris to a hydrodynamic scheme as previously developed by Smith and Liang (2013).  Floating debris propagation, interaction and impact will be evaluated using the Discrete Element Method as proposed by (Stockstill et al. 2009) so as to investigate the processes which lead to debris-induced blockage and damage of structures.



Smith, L. & Liang, Q., 2013. ‘Towards a Generalised GPU/CPU Shallow Flow Modelling Tool’, Computers and Fluids, 88: 334-343. 

Stockstill et al., 2009. ‘Modelling Floating Objects at River Structures’, Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 135: 403-414.



Professor Qiuhua Liang

Dr Geoff Parkin

Dr Andy Large

Dr Mohamed Rouainia






Samantha received an MEng in Civil Engineering from Newcastle University in 2013, and commenced her PhD in October 2013.  Further information on the Hydrosystems Modelling team can be found here: