Mud research requires multidisciplinary approach

News - 30 November 2021 - Webredactie 3mE

Mudnet, the Delft-based multidisciplinary team consisting of marine and civil engineers researching the properties of mud, won the NWO ‘Team Science Award’. The team was praised for using a great diversity of expertise in this seemingly small subject. Mudnet combines various areas of expertise to understand the complex properties of mud. The team’s aim is more efficient port maintenance, more easily navigable waterways and sustainable deep-sea mining, among other things.


The team aspect and cross-border thinking is extremely important when researching the properties of mud. To understand its complexity, researchers at Mudnet operate at both the micro- and macro-levels. Civil scientists Julia Gebert, Claire Chassagne, Deyan Draganov and Alex Kirichek are examining material behaviour at the micro-scale, such as the influence of (micro-)organisms and other organic material. This plays an important role in determining the behaviour of silt in a river, harbour or on the sea floor. On a larger scale, marine scientists Geert Keetels and Rudy Helmons are examining how to take advantage of the complex properties of mud in manoeuvring ships, for example, as well as sediment management strategies in port maintenance and making deep-sea mining more sustainable.

Rudy Helmons (Offshore and Dredging engineering): ‘At Mudnet, we focus on the complex physical properties of silt and investigate how to adapt machines to best deal with it. We are also working on NWO’s Sailing through Fluid Mud project. Silt may seem like a minor challenge, but it’s a major problem in European ports such as Rotterdam, Hamburg and Antwerp. By combining different fields of expertise, we are able to develop better solutions and develop a holistic approach for working with silt. Mudnet therefore makes us a good point of contact for these ports.’


NWO awarded the prize to three teams consisting of researchers from different disciplines and young talents working with senior researchers. They received €10,000, which they can use to further strengthen the team. Read more: ‘Winners NWO Science Awards 2021 announced’.

Also of interest: Deep-sea mining less harmful to environment thanks to new ‘minerals collector’ (