School of Earth and Environment

Sorby Environmental Dynamics Laboratory

Sorby Environmental Dynamics Laboratory

The Sorby Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory is located in the Earth and Environment Building, University of Leeds. It provides specialist services to University staff as well as external academic and corporate customers, including consultancy, and is has NERC recognised facility status.

The facility is named for Henry Clifton Sorby (1826-1908), who is widely considered to be the ‘Father of Sedimentology’ and one of Yorkshire’s greatest ever scientists, pioneered the descriptive and hydrodynamic study of sedimentary structures. For more information about Henry Clifton Sorby, including a detailed biography, see

Services Offered

We provide access to the following range of services:

  • We host an array of flow measurement techniques including a range of velocity measurements
    • A range of PIV’s (Particle Imaging Velocimetry) which allow complex turbulent flow fields to be quantified in 3-dimensions.
    • LDA (2-component Laser Doppler Anemometry)
    • PDA (Phase Doppler Anemometry)
    • UDVP (Ultrasonic Doppler Velocity Profiling)
  • We use two techniques for measuring fluid concentration
    • UHCM (Ultrasonic High Concentration Meter)
    • OBS (Optical Backscatter Probes)
  • Our facility enables a wide interdisciplinary community to experiment upon a range of processes, from flow-sediment transport links in alluvial channels, through the dispersal of sediment in the deep oceans, to particulate transport through pipes and rig vessels.
  • We are ideally suited to collecting high spatial and temporal resolution data (in both 2- and 3-dimensions) for the validation of numerical models, which are becoming increasingly complex in order to deal with real-world problems.

Specialist Services

The School of Earth and Environment also possesses excellent in-house mechanical workshop that both service the SEFDL and manufacture small items of experimental equipment (models, mounting rigs, instrument carriages etc). Users of the SEFDL have access to these facilities for the manufacture of small items of experimental apparatus: costs for both materials and labour/overheads can be funded through fEC.


  • A 10m long tilting, recirculating hydraulic flume, 30cm wide x 30cm deep. This glass-sided flume can recirculate sediment (up to 22mm in diameter) and also has a viscous flow facility, allowing sediment concentrations of up to approx. 40% by weight. A voltage controlled centrifugal pump enables accurate discharge control and a sediment feed is available to introduce sediment from above the water surface.
  • A 12m long, tilting, recirculating hydraulic flume, 100cm wide by 75cm deep. This glass-sided flume can recirculate sediment (up to 12mm in diameter) and also has a saltwater flow facility, allowing hypersaline flows to be used. A voltage controlled centrifugal pump enables accurate discharge control and a sediment feed is available to introduce sediment from above the water surface. The flume slope, water depth and water surface slope can be automatically controlled and monitored, and the flume has a Perspex base in its test section to facilitate monitoring from beneath.
  • A meter long tilting, recirculating hydraulic flume, 15cm wide x 20cm deep for use with saline flows and viscous fluids. This flume has been used to investigate drag0reduction and viscous sublayer thickening in saline flows and also as an oil-filled flume in investigations of particle rotation.
  • A 6m long, straight sided continuous density underflow flume, 50cm wide x 150cm deep that enables sustained flows of various viscosity fluids that are fed from two large feeder tanks.
  • A continuous density underflow flume – a deep, tilting, ‘T’-shaped tank with a (1.625m long x 0.35m wide by 1.5m deep feeder channel which enters a large tank (1.8m x 1.8m x 1.5m deep) allowing simulation of sustained, radially-spreading flows.
  • A 5m long x 0.2m wide, lock-exchange density current tank for pilot experiments on saline and sediment-laden density currents.
  • A 6m long x 25mm diameter flow loop for detailed analysis of particle-induced turbulence modulation, using UDVP and PIV.
  • A 1m diameter x 1.5m high Perspex tank, and associated input system, for studying jet impingement and sediment erosion and transport in multiphase flows.
  • A 5.5m long x 3.5m wide stream table to enable scaled modelling of braided rivers and their deposits and is fully equipped with subsidence mechanism, computer-controlled sediment and fluid discharge, laser bed-profiler and digital video cameras.
  • A 2-component DANTEC fibre-optic laser Doppler anemometry system (LDA).
  • A 2-component DANTEC Phase Doppler anemometry facility (PDA).
  • Three 3D DANTEX particle imaging velocimetry (PIV) systems operating at rates of 15, 100 and 4000Hz).
  • A twelve-probe ultrasonic velocity profiler (UDVP), which thought the addition of two further systems, and an additional 60 probes, now cover a range of frequencies from 0.5-4MHz.
  • Three systems of ultrasonic bed profilers to resolve bed height to within +/-0.01mm.
  • A 4-channel constant temperature anemometry system (CTA) equipped with 3 steel-clad probes that provide mean flow measurements at a low (~1Hz) resolution.
  • A FLIR high-speed thermal imaging camera that can operate at up to 750Hz and resolve temperature differences to 0.08C.
  • A Bohlin C-VOR rheometer with temperature control unit and capacity to operate under controlled shear rate and controlled shear stress modes, and with both creep and oscillation capabilities.
  • Two-camera, time-lapse video system with mixer desk.
  • Three SONY DCR VX-1000 digital video cameras that allow real-time long-exposure (streakline) visualisation in a range of flows.
  • PC-based automated video image-capture suite. Additionally, allied equipment for flow visualisation, notably laser light sheet, fluorescent lighting, high-intensity laboratory spotlights and dye injectors are also present.
  • Malvern Mastersizer 2000E grainsizer: this laser diffraction–based instrument can measure particle size distributions over the grainsize range 0.1 to 1000 microns.
  • A four-electrode high-resolution conductivity microprobe (Precision Measurement Engineering Inc.), which can operate at up to 800 Hz, allowing measurement of both fluid density and turbulence parameters.
  • An array of Ultrasonic High Concentration Meters (UHCM) for the measurement of concentration profiles in fluids with sediment concentrations up to 40% by volume.
  • Optical backscatter probes (OBS) in both forward looking mode (OBS3M) and side-looking remotely deployable mode (OBS5), and a micro-OBS for smaller-scale experiments, for concentration measurement in low concentration fluids.
  • A sand ripple profiling sonar for high temporal and spatial resolution measurement of bedforms across a swath.
  • SeaTek ultrasonic ranging system with 16 transducers for 2D and 3D bed profiling.
  • Near infra-red laser ranging systems for measurement of surface topography in both subaerial and subaqueous settings.
  • A variety of allied equipment for flow measurement including pressure transducers, micro-current meters and a Leica hand-held refractometer.
  • A variety of allied equipment for concentration measurement including siphons and associated peristaltic pump, and a purpose built calibration rig for the OBS and UHCM instruments.
  • A range of small-scale test tanks for equipment testing and optimisation.
  • The SEFDL possesses its own intranet for the distributed processing of PIV data and back-up of data via a 7TB backup rack.

Further Information