Simulations of magnetic field in an electrically conducting fluid. Sheets of strong field (blue/purple) are carried, twisted and folded in the fluid flow. These mechanisms generate the Earth's magnetic field, and the Sun's field leading to phenomena such as sunspots and solar flares.
Simulation of mixing in a fluid flow: the chaotic fluid motions pull out bands of hot fluid (red) and cold fluid (blue), enhancing mixing processes. Research is involved in understanding and quantifying chaotic mixing, with applications to geophysical flows in the oceans and atmosphere.

Theoretical Fluid Dynamics

Led by Professor Andrew Gilbert, Professor Mitchell Berger and Dr Joanne Mason

The study of fluid flow underlies many aspects of the natural world and in the development of science and technology. Successful large-scale numerical simulations and experiments always need to be underpinned by theoretical understanding, generating many opportunities to develop new avenues of research, while many fundamental unsolved problems remain, such as describing the nature of turbulent flow.

Our work on the theory of fluid dynamics within the Centre for Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics includes the modelling of vortices, with examples such as hurricanes and tornadoes in the atmosphere, or Gulf Stream rings in the ocean. Here we are involved with understanding their structure, stability and mixing processes. For example, how fast are pollutants or reacting chemicals mixed in flows dominated by coherent vortex motion? Other research areas include the problem of whether singularities can develop in ideal fluid flows and the modelling of flows on very small scales, relevant to biomedical applications.

Astrophysical fluid dynamics is an important theme for us, and in many applications magnetic fields play an important role.  A star such as our Sun is host to magnetic phenomena such as Sun spots and solar flares, in an 11-year cycle of solar magnetic activity. We are interested in the theoretical modelling of these processes: how are magnetic fields and electric currents generated by fluid flow of electrically conducting plasma? How is the energy in solar flares released through the reconnection of tangled magnetic fields high above the visible surface of the Sun? This latter topic involves intriguing connections with the study of knot theory and topology, to describe tangled magnetic fields. These tools, originally developed as abstract pure mathematics, are also useful in areas such as polymer science and the description of long, tangled molecules such as DNA.

Research projects

The following are our current and most recent projects. For more information, please contact the relevant staff member and research students.


Academic Staff: Professor Peter Ashwin*, Professor Mitchell Berger, Dr Andrew Gilbert, Professor Andrew Soward, Professor Keke Zhang, Prof. Geoff Vallis, Prof. Beth Wingate, Dr. Claire Foullon, Dr. Joanne Mason.

Research Staff and Students: Dr Matthew Turner, Dr. Xavier Riedinger, Sam Jones, Jack Campbell and Sam Durston.

(*Also a member of Dynamical Systems and Control.)

Postgraduate Research

We welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate research students.

 The mixing of hot and cold fluids. Credit: Fatma Zaggout - PhD in Passive Scalar Mixing in Chaotic Flows with Boundaries.