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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


Rhys Williams

United Kingdom

Department of Engineering, Jesus College

PhD thesis: Investigating the three dimensional and unsteady nature of supersonic flows

Research interests
1. The properties and behaviours of high-speed flows, particularly in the context of propulsion for high speed applications
2. Flow separation and resulting complex flow structures 
3. Flow control for high speed applications
4. Turbulence modelling

My PhD focuses on understanding high speed aerodynamics is of critical importance in the development of high-speed aircraft, launch and re-entry vehicles. Key to this is the investigation of how objects interact with supersonic flow, where shock wave boundary layer interactions (SBLIs) play a vital role in flow behaviour. SBLIs promote flow separation which can have catastrophic effects on engine inlets, supersonic wings, and rocket nozzles. My research aims will address:

1. How does the three-dimensional behaviour of a supersonic flow vary with Mach number and shock wave angle?
2. How can the flow behaviour be controlled under a range of conditions in order to mitigate separation?
3. How do time variable factors influence supersonic flow?

Experimental campaigns will be conducted in the Cambridge supersonic wind tunnel to determine and map critical flow properties and features. Answering these questions will impact fundamental knowledge about flow and the design of supersonic flow systems.


Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests?

An early interest in astronomy led to a fascination with how one achieves and survives the incredibly high speeds needed to reach orbit and return. This interest in high-speed aerodynamics and propulsion was fostered by my superb teachers and mentors at Imperial College London and UC Berkeley. My interests were reinforced and expanded and given a practical dimension by industrial experience at Reaction Engines PLC working on novel propulsion systems and an aerospace start-up.