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  • Writer's pictureM A Hannan

Innovating Coastal Engineering: The Impact and Advances from Dam Break and Flexible Breakwater Simulations

Updated: Jan 12

Dam break simulations and wave interactions with breakwaters using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) have significantly advanced our understanding of coastal engineering and marine safety. Apart from the study of traditional dam breaking scenarios with fixed structure, the study of other similar scenarios, particularly involving flexible structures, is crucial in predicting and mitigating potential damage caused by extreme sea conditions, such as green water events and wave slamming. These occurrences, which can be likened to a dam breaking, involve the rapid movement of water and can cause substantial structural damage.

Recent research has focused on the fluid-structure interaction (FSI) of dam break flow impacting on elastic structures. This involves using CFD coupled with the Finite Element Method (FEM) to simulate the bending of structures like cantilever beams under the force of the water. These simulations are pivotal in understanding how structures react to sudden, intense water flow, similar to what might be experienced during a coastal storm or in a marine environment. By employing the OpenFOAM software alongside a self-developed structural solver, researchers can accurately model the fluid field and update it dynamically based on structural deformations.


The impact of such simulations on coastal engineering is profound. They provide insights into the behavior of flexible structures when subjected to extreme hydrodynamic conditions. This knowledge is vital for designing safer coastal infrastructure, such as breakwaters, sea walls, and offshore platforms, which may be subject to similar forces. Furthermore, understanding the interactions between water flow and flexible structures helps in developing more resilient materials and designs that can withstand the unpredictable and often destructive nature of the sea.


The simulations also delve into the realm of multiphase flows, essential for representing real-world scenarios accurately. Multiphase flow simulations in dam break scenarios consider the complex interactions between different fluid phases, like water and air, or other fluids of various densities and their impact on structures. This is critical in coastal engineering, where such interactions are frequent and can have significant implications for the stability and integrity of structures.

By simulating these scenarios, engineers and researchers can predict the forces exerted on structures during extreme events, allowing for the development of more effective mitigation and protection strategies. This is particularly important in the context of climate change, where rising sea levels and increased storm intensity make understanding and preparing for these events more crucial than ever.

In an effort to make the students familiarize with such research trends and potential real-life applications, OpenFOAM is used to create some interactive dam breaking scenarios involving waves, flexible structures and multi-phase flows for classroom demonstrations and practices.


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