The joint Windblown Sand Modeling and Mitigation Research Group at Politecnico di Torino and Optiflow puts together in a multidisciplinary team specialists from academy and industry. Competences range from civil engineering to physical mathematics to computational modeling and simulation. Our team provides a deep understanding of the underlying physical phenomena, their computational simulation and the quantitative evaluation of the efficiency of sand mitigation measures for railway applications.

Politecnico di Torino is a "Research University" acknowledged as a centre of excellence in all over the world for the qualifying research areas of Architecture and Engineering. The development of the fields of excellence, the investment on frontier subjects, and also the support to the curiosity driven research allow a virtuous mix of basis and applied research. The University aims at networking with the socio-economical context and at opening new partnerships with companies and multinationals.

Optiflow is a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) French consulting company, with more than 15 years of experience in the field of Computational Wind Engineering. Optiflow consulting activities helped architects and engineers improve wind and ventilation performances on more than 100 major architectural projects worldwide. Optiflow has a strong record in Research and Development activities and cultivates technology transfer relationships with a number of public and private research institutions.

Past and Present Work

WSMM group has been and currently is involved in sand mitigation consultancy services for major railway projects in Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

In 2013-14 the WSMM group participated in the Sand Mitigation Study for the 950 Km-long Landbridge Railway Project (client Italferr for Saudi Arabia Railways).

WSMM group actively promotes Research and Development activities on the subject, in collaboration with a number of industrial partners.

Windblown Sand Issues about anthropic environment

Impact on Railway Infrastructures

Windblown sand represents an issue for every transportation project crossing arid regions.
It can lead to dramatic dangers for railway lines, frequent service interruptions and tremendous maintenance costs.

Windblown sand can impact railway lines serviceability and safety in a number of different ways and on different time scales.
Each of them requires special attention during line design and can only be faced with proper knowledge, prediction tools and simulation models.
Politecnico di Torino and Optiflow together offer a complete set of competences and experience
to propose adequate mitigation measures for most of these challenges.

Safety issues

Such challenges require a mandatory solution for safety issues (Sand Ultimate Limit State, SULS). They remain open issues at the state of the art, despite large efforts have been made in recent past. Here are some of the most relevant examples.

Moving intruder dunes
Parked train trapping
Track covering
Train derailment

Ballast contamination
Dust lifting by running trains
Asymmetric rail grinding
Communication balise covering

Serviceability / Mainteinance issues

Such challenges are related to the railway serviceability (Sand Serviceability Limit State, SSLS). They require enormous maintenance efforts along the railway lifetime. Here are some of the most relevant examples.

Impact on other human activities

Other transportation and industrial infrastructures.
Towns and villages.
Farms, archeologial sites.

Sand Mitigation

The joint Windblown Sand Modeling and Mitigation Research Group at Politecnico di Torino and Optiflow has developed modeling and design competences to carry on sound and complete sand mitigation studies for large railway and infrastructural projects.
The following are some of our competence areas, among the others.

Site Reconnaissance

Objective: predict the amount of windblown sand over every section of a railway line

Each railway line section is characterized by its typical wind conditions, surrounding ground morphology, sand covering and more. Our team has the capacity of collecting these data and summarize them in what we called “Side Actual Net Drift”.

Wind rose
Terrain morphology
sand Side Actual Net Drift


Sand Mitigation Measure (SMM) Design

Objective: work with nature to reduce the impact of windblown sand on an infrastructure

Different strategies can be employed:

  • stabilizing the source, reducing sand take-off;
  • blocking sand along the path, before its arrive on the railway infrastructure;
  • frequently maintaining (cleaning) the receiver infrastructure.

Our patented S4S Sand Barrier

The WSMM Group has recently designed an efficient Sand Mitigation Barrier, named S4S (Shield for Sand), whose invention has been object of an international PCT application (number PCT/IT2015/000129). The barrier is intended to protect railway infrastructures from medium sized sand drifts. For more informations about the barrier and the possible exploitation of the patent please download our S4S Barrier brouchure or contact the Research Support and Technology Transfer Department at Politecnico di Torino (

Erosion-Transport-Deposition (ETD) modeling & simulation

Objective: quantify the efficacy of mitigation measures through computational simulation

An original model of transport, erosion and deposition of windblown sand has been developed by our team. It can be combined to wind simulations (CFD) to the aim of predicting the SMM efficiency.

Dune aerodynamics through CFD
Dune ETD Simulation

News and Events

Middle East Rail 2019

February 26-27, 2019, Dubai (UAE)

WSMM will present the SMaRT project at the largest railway conference in the MENA Region.

SMaRT EID Programme

WSMM is involved in the SMaRT (Sand Mitigation around Railway Tracks) project. SMaRT is a research and training programme founded by European Union.

Polito Techshare Day 2016

February 23, 2016, Torino (ITALY)

WSMM will present its S4S Barrier invention to industrial stakeholders at the event organized by Politecnico di Torino.

Middle East Rail 2016

March 8-9, 2016, Dubai (UAE)

WSMM is invited speaker at the largest railway conference in the MENA Region. WSMM will give a keynote lecture and hold a 1 day workshop.

Expoferroviaria 2016

April 5-7, 2016, Torino (ITALY)

WSMM will give a Seminar presentation on Sand Mitigation at the Italian Showcase for railway technology, products and systems.

Key People

Luigi Preziosi

Ph.D. Mechanics, Ph.D. Applied Mathematics

Politecnico di Torino, DISMA

Mathematical modeling of multiphase flows.

Luca Bruno

Ph.D. Fluid Mechanics, Ph.D. Structural Eng.

Politecnico di Torino, DAD

Wind Engineering, Civil Engineering Design

Nicolas Coste

Ph.D. Fluid Mechanics

Optiflow, R&D
Head of R&D

HPC, Comp. Fluid Dynamics


Copyright © Windblown Sand Modeling and Mitigation Research Group 2019