Project Highlights:

  • Computational Fluid Dynamics incorporating building structures and trees.
  • Building on 5 recent publications from this group.
  • CASE project with University spin-out company.

The University of Leicester has developed a unique tool to model the dynamical dispersion of pollution in the urban environment. FluidAir was developed during a highly successful PhD studentship between 2013 and 2016, and has led to the submission of five peer-reviewed publications. This successful team is now looking to recruit a new PhD student to enhance this model with new functionality including calibration against new sensor networks and airborne measurements, and incorporation of basic chemistry.

Global population increases, urbanisation and industrialisation have combined to result in significant air quality challenges across the world, resulting in an economic impact of over £1Tn p.a. The air quality group at the University of Leicester has a number of cutting-edge technologies to contribute to this research and operational challenge. A new spin-out company has been created to commercialise a range of this research, and this CASE PhD will be supported by this new company, EarthSense Systems Ltd (www.earthsense.co.uk). This studentship is supervised by Prof. Roland Leigh and Prof. Paul Monks at the University of Leicester, and James Eddy, MD of EarthSense Systems Ltd.

The FluidAir Model, developed at the University of Leicester, showing the degree of dispersion of key traffic pollutants.


The FluidAir model ingests 3D building and tree data from a range of sources and uses the OpenFOAM CFD solver for key CFD functionality. Initial research has been produced with minor modifications of the core OpenFOAM software. This PhD will build on the core research framework, and introduce new modules for enhanced dynamics and simple chemistry. These modules are created in C/C++, and outputs will be incrementally validated against available wind tunnel and urban monitoring data.

Training and Skills

This studentship will be based within the air quality group at the University of Leicester, and supported within a substantial and experienced supervision and training framework. This studentship has the very significant advantage of support from Antoine Jeanjean, the student who developed the original framework, who will be a PDRA closely associated with this position.

CENTA students are required to complete 45 days training throughout their PhD including a 10 day placement. In the first year, students will be trained as a single cohort on environmental science, research methods and core skills. Throughout the PhD, training will progress from core skills sets to master classes specific to CENTA research themes. 


Year 1: Development of new studies exploring the dynamical evolution of pollutants in urban environments. Significant periods to develop background knowledge of modelling, dispersion calculations and atmospheric chemistry. Several months in year 1 are allocated to the development of suitable programming skills to support this PhD. 

Year 2: Development of new modules to parameterise basic chemistry schemes (eg. The Leighton relationship), and enhanced dynamical processes (eg. Thermal inputs). Validation of model outputs using either primary fieldwork, or available collaborator data.  Publication of first results from these new modules.

Year 3: Authorship of publications building on capabilities from years 1 and 2. In particular, exploring the ability of NO2 data to provide information on the full NOX budget, and derive information on the primary emissions of NO and NO2.

Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

The supervisory team comprises of Prof. Roland Leigh, PI of major air quality hardware and software projects, Prof. Paul Monks, holder of some key positions including chair of DEFRA’s Air Quality Expert Group, and James Eddy, Managing Director of EarthSense (www.earthsense.co.uk ).

This studentship is CASE sponsored by EarthSense Systems Ltd, a new spin-out company from the University of Leicester’s air quality group and Bluesky International. The FluidAir model is commercially exploited by EarthSense at present, with research developments undertaken at the University of Leicester. Therefore, any new discoveries have full potential to migrate to both research and operational output.

Further Details

This project is based within the University of Leicester’s Earth Observation Science Group, in partnership with EarthSense Systems Ltd. Any requests for further information should be addressed to Prof. Roland Leigh on R.J.Leigh@le.ac.uk.