PhD: Controls of subsurface fractures on mine water storage efficiency by combining full-field methods with machine learning via FindAPhD

Heriot Watt University

Edinburgh, UK 🇬🇧

About the Project

This PhD is an opportunity to contribute to the game changer in green energy supply based on the geothermal capacity of mine water energy storage and generation.   

An innovative solution to tackle climate change and cover the energy needs of socially deprived communities and small-scale industries close to abandoned, flooded coal mines is to invest into mine water heat and heat storage. Abandoned mines, particularly in Scotland, can be repurposed and re-engineered to produce sustainable energy. However, any changes in their geomechanical integrity due to their prolonged inactivity raise concerns about the mine competence for the anticipated sustainable energy production. The Glasgow Observatory looks into ways around this obstacle to collect relevant observations to explore low temperature, mine water heat, and heat storage resource capacity and facilitate access to samples from this unique underground research facility.

This PhD proposal aims to understand how cyclic loading in mine water geothermal energy production affects the growth of subsurface fractures and the subsequent integrity of the flooded shafts, especially when the rock mass is critically stressed.

The Science

To better understand how mine water heat production may affect the properties and kinematics of the fractured rock, dynamic load experiments will be performed, coupled with large volumes of x-ray CT image acquisition. Machine learning change detection approach will be used to analyse the bulk of digital images to detect changes in rock structure and texture due to the change in load/temperature. Change detection will enable to infer mine water geothermal scenarios that are safe to operate and maximise the mine water heat production and heat storage.

The end-goal of this PhD will be to provide a physics-based, data-driven workflow, the associated software tools, and a publicly accessible library of digital images to help explain changes in rock properties due to mine water heat production and storage, by combining experimental data with non-destructive full-field methods and machine learning modelling.

The PhD Prospect

The PhD student will join a dynamically developed international team between the GeoDataScience ( and the Earth Materials and Processes for Sustainable Development (em-π) groups at the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering. The PhD student will gain a diverse experience in geomechanical experiments and modelling along with bringing to data science and AI data analytics. This would benefit the PhD student to develop as a unique specialist to tackle the timely energy challenges in the digital era and ensure sustainable management of Earth resources with acquired geoscience and data science skillset.

Funding notes:

This is a full scholarship which will cover tuition fees for UK-based students and provide an annual stipend in line with EPSRC recommended levels (currently £17,668) for the 48 months duration of the project.

International candidates will need to demonstrate that they (or their supervisory team) have co-funding to cover the difference between home and international fees to be eligible. The difference in fees varies by programme. The current difference for 2023/23 academic year varies from £11,000 and £21,000 per year for 4 years.


This scholarship is available to Home students only unless co-funding can be demonstrated (as detailed under funding notes).

To be eligible, applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent experience). Individual projects may include additional eligibility criteria, in which case, this will be stated under the project description.

We recognise that not every talented researcher will have had the same opportunities to advance their careers. We therefore will account for any particular circumstances that applicants disclose (e.g. parental leave, caring duties, part-time jobs to support studies, disabilities etc.) to ensure an inclusive and fair recruitment process. 

How to apply

To apply you must complete our online application form.

Please select the relevant PhD Applied Geoscience and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor name on your application form. You will also need to provide a CV, a supporting statement (1-2 A4 pages) outlining your suitability and how you would approach the project, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts and an academic reference.

Please contact Dr Elli-Maria Charalampidou ( for informal information.

If you have any general queries about the applications process, please contact


 The closing date for applications is 10 April 2023 and applicants must be available to start in September 2023.


Charalampidou, E.M., Madankan, M., Kardjilov, N., Hilger A., Water flow within deformed and undeformed samples from Glasgow observatory, 23rd mine water energy symposium, April 2023.





IHE Delft MSc in Water and Sustainable Development