PhD position on novel installation and extraction methods for foundations of offshore wind turbines

Updated: about 2 months ago
Deadline: 01 Jul 2021

(ref. BAP-2021-432)

Laatst aangepast : 3/06/2021

During the joint PhD, the research will take place both both at UC Louvain and KU Leuven (with a research stay of 2 years at both institutions). At KULeuven, you will be located at the Structural Mechanics section on the campus in Leuven. The research is in close collaboration with the Hydraulics and Geotechnics section on the campus in Bruges. At UClouvain, you will work in the civil engineering department of the Institute of Mechanics, Materials and Civil Engineering (IMMC) located in Louvain-la-Neuve.


The widespread deployment of offshore wind turbines in Belgium and Europe requires the use of fast, low-cost and reliable installation methods. While impact pile driving is predominantly used for offshore foundations, vibratory pile driving provides an interesting alternative, commonly used in onshore applications. Vibratory driving induces increased pore water pressures that liquefy the soil, allowing for pile installation and removal using a relatively small surcharge force. As a result, vibratory driving represents an economic and more sustainable alternative to impact pile driving. However, it is unclear how the use of vibratory driving affects the mechanical properties of the soil during installation in offshore conditions, and consequently the mechanical response of the structure throughout its lifetime. This is important, since the lateral soil stiffness strongly affects the fatigue lifetime of the wind turbine. The objective of the present project is to develop a better understanding of the soil-structure interaction during the installation and operational use of the foundation. Semi-analytical and numerical models will be developed and calibrated using cyclic triaxial tests in conditions characteristic for offshore environments. The results of the models will be compared to reduced scale experiments of impact and vibratory driving for the installation and the extraction, but also the mechanical behavior of the pile subjected to cyclic loading under wind and wave loading. The developed methodology will be applied to actual case studies, aiming at a characterization of the soil-pile interaction and providing design guidelines.


You are soon to obtain, or have obtained a master's degree (or equivalent) in the field of Civil Engineering. You have a strong interest in structural mechanics, geotechnical engineering, and numerical modeling.  You have strong analytical skills and a sense of synthesis, excellent proficiency and good communication skills in English, both oral and written. Active knowledge of Dutch and/or French is a strong point. You are motivated, independent, critical, and a strong team-player, and able to meet the PhD admission requirements both at KU Leuven and UCLouvain. Experience with programming (Matlab/Python/C++), numerical methods (finite elements,...), and geotechnical testing is a plus.


We offer the opportunity to pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering, in a stimulating research environment at two of the leading Engineering Faculties worldwide, as well as a PhD scholarship of about 2000 EUR per month (net income) depending on your experience and personal situation. You will be encouraged to present your work at international conferences and will benefit from our strong international research network. Besides the main research activities, you will also act as a teaching assistant for courses in the Civil Engineering program at KU Leuven and UCLouvain. Your Doctoral training is provided in the framework of the KU Leuven Arenberg Doctoral School (, known for its strong focus on researchers aiming to valorize their doctoral expertise and competences in a non-academic context. 


Your application should include: (1) a motivation letter (max. 2 pages) that details the reasons why you are interested in this particular position and how this position fits within your career plans, (2) a complete curriculum vitae that demonstrates how your profile meets the above requirements, (3) a complete transcript of records to date, (4) a proof of proficiency in English (TOEFL or IETLS certificate), and (5) an electronic copy of your MSc thesis or research project report, if already available.

For more information please contact Prof. Stijn François (, Prof. George Anoyatis (, or Prof. Hadrien Rattez ( The successful candidate is expected to start no later than October 1, 2021.

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