Water Engineering

Group Design

The Group Design Projects (GDPs) are 4th year undergraduate student projects with 5 to 6 students in one group, which account for 45 credits or 37.5% of the total credits of the final year.

The aim of the project is to deal with a challenging design task, going to the limits of what students can do.

We offer 1-2 GDPs every year. Our philosophy is that the GDPs should be projects where an engineering challenge related to our fields of work (i.e. water and energy) is taken up, solved and where a technical solution is demonstrated as working solution. This means that we cover the full design process from idea over theory, design, construction and testing and comparison with the design assumptions.

This all sounds rather theoretical, so let’s look at some examples of the previous years:

GDP 2018 Design of an ultra-low head hydropower system for water purification and saving irrigation

At Southampton University, we developed a very simple waterwheel for ultra-low head differences from 0.10 m onwards. In this project, the students developed a low-cost solution to  generate hydropower in existing irrigation canals to drive a reverse osmosis (RO) cell for water purification a and electricity generation, or to pump water for water saving drip irrigation. The students developed a semi-permeable weir to create the required head difference and tested it at small scale. A 1.4 m diameter wheel with a weir for 0.10 m head difference was built and tested in our outdoor channel in Chilworth. The system proved very successful, and generated pressures of up to 50 m with a 60 to 70% efficiency. At the Faculty of Engineering’s Design Show, the project won the first prize against very strong competition from mechanical and aerospace engineering. The results were also presented at an International Conference in Trento / Italy.

Supervisory team: Dr Gerald Müller and Dr Sergio Maldonado

GDP 2017: Design of a condensing engine

During the solar thermal desalination of water, steam is generated at atmospheric pressure. The steam contains a large amount of energy. However, since it is not pressurized, it cannot be used to drive a steam engine. Increasing the temperature of the solar thermal collector is possible, but that reduces the efficiency of the collector and increases safety requirements and associated costs fast. In order to use the energy of the steam, the condensing engine was re-discovered. In this engine, the steam is condensed and the arising vacuum drives the engine. The theory of the CE was improved and based on this work, a CE was designed, built and tested. This was again a very successful project. An extension of the theory had predicted, that the operation of the engine with boiler temperatures well below 10C was possible –this was also demonstrated convincingly and the results of the project were presented at a conference and published in an international journal.

Supervisory team: Dr Gerald Müller and Prof Andrew Cruden

GDP 2016: Hydraulic design of a key component of a large fish pass

Fish passes are built at weirs in rivers to allow for the up- and also the downstream passage of fish. In this case, the project was at the Diglis weir on the River Severn, where a height difference of around 2.2 m had to be overcome. The groups had the task to develop a hydraulic design for the junction pool, the critical lowest section of the fish pass where the fish enter the fish pass. The GDP group built a scale model of the lower section of the fish pass, analysed the proposed geometry, and improved it considerably. This project ran in cooperation with FishTek Ltd.

Supervisory team: Dr Gerald Müller and Dr Gustavo de Almeida