Research team

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steel construction supports for concrete

Materials and structures

Materials and Structures

The Materials and Structures group focuses on the operational challenges posed by extreme environments and special applications for the construction sector. Our research is driven by the need to provide safe, sustainable, durable and resilient infrastructure now and in the future.

We develop and optimise materials, processes and systems which show excellent physical performance under environmental and human stressors. Expertise in the School of Civil Engineering encompasses all stages of the design and delivery of civil infrastructure.  Our activities range from special applications for the built environment and construction sectorsto creating more efficient buildings and infrastructure as well as in situ assessment of existing structures.


Our research is in partnership with academic, government and industrial partners, and we collaborate extensively with UK and international organisations on a range of projects. Many of our projects are either directly sponsored by industry (as joint research or as consultancy), or involve extensive industrial collaboration in third party-funded work.

Our partnerships include international organisations such as RILEM, American Concrete Institute (ACI), Concrete Society, Steel Construction Institute (SCI), British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA), Nanocem, and fib (CEB-FIP), British Research Establishment (BRE) and British Standards Institute (BSI). We work with national and international actors in Manufacturing and Digital Technologies and the Leeds Manufacturing Forum. We maintain a strong relationship with KTN and Innovate UK and contribute to the University of Leeds': Robotics at Leeds; Nuclear Leeds; and the Waste Management and Resource Recovery research group in the School of Chemical and Process Engineering. We also work closely with the Leeds Electron Microscopy and Spectroscopy Centre (LEMAS).

We are funded by the UK Research Council (EPSRC, ESRC, and NERC), Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society as well as from the European Commission (ERC, Marie-Curie, and RFCS). Industrial contributors include Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney, Bell Helicopter, General Motors of Canada, and Allen Vanguard, WSP, Kloeckner Metals, Tatasteel, and many more.

 Research areas

  • Extending infrastructure life: Life-span predictions of structures; trestraint and long-term behaviour; rheological properties of engineering materials; durability of steel and concrete; repair and rehabilitation of structures, immobilisation of low and intermediate level radioactive waste; energy and CO2 storage
  • Civil Engineering materials: Low carbon cements; geo-polymers; chemical and mineral admixtures for concrete, including the use of industrial by-products and waste materials; recycled aggregates; composite materials etc. with the use of X-ray diffraction; thermal analysis; Raman, photoelectron, solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopies; scanning & transmission electron microscopy
  • Masonry structures
  • Steel, composite and hybrid structures.

Research expertise

  • Digital design optimisation and manufacturing technologies: Design optimisation; structural topology optimisation; free-form finding; BIM; digital fabrication, additive manufacturing (3D printing)
  • Computational modelling of complex structures: Earthquake engineering and seismic design of structures; fire-resistant design; soil-structure interaction; fluid-structure interaction; vibrations; strengthening and retrofitting; multi-scale modelling; particle methods; fracture and failure analysis
  • Sensors and instrumentation: Structural health monitoring (SHM); remote sensing; integrated RFID-sensors; robotics and autonomous systems; smart buildings.

Further information

View all members of our research group and publications.

PhD projects

We have opportunities for prospective postgraduate researchers. Find out more.

Informal enquiries can be made to the group leader or deputies, or any member of staff working in a relevant area.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss an area of research in more detail, contact the Group Leader Professor Susan Bernal.