Multiphysics HFDEM for calving of ice shelves

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

The mass loss of Antarctic ice shelves will govern whether global sea levels rise 1.1 m by 2100 or 15 m by 2500. The fracture and calving process of icebergs accounts for almost 50% of mass lost from the Antarctic ice shelves. Thus, accurate representation of the fracture and calving process of the icebergs is the key to reduce uncertainties in the prediction of future sea level rise. However, it remains elusive and current predictions are based on simplified physics and do not reflect local stress – fracture interactions. The application of discrete element models has represented a substantial advance by allowing iceberg calving processes to be simulated explicitly but is prohibitively computational expensive when applied to the large spatial and timescales of Multiphysics thermo-hydro-mechanical (THM) coupling Antarctic iceberg calving.

This project looks to revolutionise our ability to accurately predict the fracture and calving process of the Antarctic icebergs using a novel hybrid finite-discrete element method (HFDEM) through implementing a THM coupling model. The coupling model will first be calibrated against laboratory experiments on the deformation and fracture of ice samples conducted at Ice Mechanics Lab of IMAS and then be applied to the fracture and calving process of Totten Glacier and Denman Glacier in East Antarctica. Numerical modellings will focus on reproducing current spatial distribution of fracture on the ice shelves, then progress to simulate the change in modelled fracture distribution as the ice shelves thin and retreat under future global warming scenarios.

This project builds on a substantial body of work by Dr Hongyuan Liu’s team in developing and parallelizing HFDEM as an innovative and efficient numerical tool to model the fracture process of brittle materials and involves in collaborations with Dr Sue Cook at IMAS and Prof Matt King at ARC Centre of Excellence on Antarctic Science.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Hongyuan Liu


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • A good background on continuous or discrete mechanics, computer programming with C/C++ and computer graphics

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Be familiar with Multiphysics coupling, finite-discrete element method or GPU programming with CUDA

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Hongyuan Liu, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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