Experimental and Numerical Modelling of Deep-Sea-Mining-Generated Turbidity Currents

Mohamed Elerian*, Cees van Rhee, Rudy Helmons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Renewable energy installations and energy storage solutions require significant quantities of critical raw materials such as nickel, cobalt and rare earth metals. The supply chains of these raw materials face many difficulties, such as the continuous decrease of mineral ore grades on land. In view of these complications, the motivation to search for new resources has grown, with the deep sea being seen as a potential source of these minerals. Polymetallic nodule mining generates turbidity currents, which could negatively impact the deep-sea environment. For that reason, we investigate this type of current experimentally and numerically in order to characterize the generated turbidity current. Various non-cohesive sediment types, i.e., different particle sizes, and different concentrations are tested using a lock-exchange set-up. Three sediment types (glass beads, silica sand and a 50/50 blend of glass beads and silica sand) with seven initial sediment concentrations are examined. Additionally, for the numerical work, a drift–flux modelling approach is used to simulate the performed lock-exchange experiments. The results show that the front velocities of the currents resulting from the three sediment types increases with increasing initial concentrations inside the lock regardless. Moreover, using the same initial concentration, the difference in front velocities between the generated currents of the three sediment types decreases as the initial concentration increases. When using an initial volumetric concentration of 2.5% and 3%, the difference in front velocities between the generated current of the three sediment types vanishes. Finally, by comparing the numerical and experimental results, the drift–flux model is proven to be a reliable numerical model for predicting the current.

Original languageEnglish
Article number558
Number of pages21
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • deep sea mining
  • polymetallic nodules
  • sediment deposition
  • sediment–water discharge
  • turbidity currents
  • water entrainment


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