Materials and structures
Materials and Structures
With expertise in all stages of the design, delivery and maintenance of civil infrastructure, our research is driven by advancing and developing transformative and innovative solutions. We aim to preserve and develop safe, sustainable, durable and resilient infrastructure now and in the future. Our research agendas are developed in consideration of the most pressing national and global challenges posed by climate change and performance demands in our built environment.
We deliver multi-scale and multi-disciplinary research projects, conducted across the University and with national and global partners. Our work covers a broad range of topics, including:
Low carbon civil engineering materials
Our research centres on the development, characterisation and exploitation of Portland and non-Portland cement and concrete technologies, from materials selection and mix designs optimisation, to evaluation of their durability performance when exposed to different environments. Our activities are developed in partnership with the Neville Centre of Excellence in Cement and Concrete Engineering.
We work in a broad range of low carbon materials for the production of concrete including composite and alkali-activated cements, alternative supplementary cementitious materials, recycled aggregates, and fibre reinforced systems, among others. It complemented by the implementation of thermodynamic, structural mechanics and fluid dynamic modelling approaches. Learn more by viewing The Concrete Set and Making Concrete Greener and Going with the Flow: the Hidden Science of Fluid Dynamics.
Our research aims to advance the underpinning understanding needed to develop best practices and strategies for the maintenance, repair and rehabilitation of masonry infrastructure. We perform large scale experimental testing and advance computational approaches for developing models to predict the post-cracking and near collapse nature of masonry subjected to various types of loading, including simulations of natural disasters. It also includes the structural analysis and modelling of complexity in geometry of masonry infrastructures, and determining soil-structure interaction and its influence in deterioration mechanisms.
Steel, composite and hybrid structures
Our research centres on the development of innovative steel, steel-concrete composite, and hybrid structural members and systems for embracing resilience and sustainability. It integrates simulation-based engineering science combined with large and full-scale experimental methods for optimising structural and material performance. Current topics include: structural topology optimisation for reducing material use, connection, panel and slab design for offsite or modular building construction, and design for additive manufacturing.
Structural health monitoring (SHM)
Our research aims to identify the as-built properties and the aged state of current structural systems providing confidence in them, and ultimately enabling least-assumptive, data-driven, accurate long-term life predictions that safeguard society from the multiplicative impact imposed by structural failures. To achieve such knowledge we develop and best employ state-of-the-art sensors and instrumentation, such as digital image correlation, hyperspectral imaging, ultrasonic pulse velocimetry, accelerometery, and laser vibrometry. We also employ non-destructive structural identification techniques, and novel applications in robotics and autonomous systems.
Life-cycle of infrastructure
Our research centres on identifying the most suitable solutions to enable decarbonisation of the construction sector. Our commitment and motivation to contribute to minimising the environmental footprint of infrastructure is at the heart of all the research topics of our group. As key technical contributors of ongoing national efforts in circular economy and resource recovery from waste, our research includes materials flow analysis, environmental and social life-cycle analysis of materials and systems, socio-economic impact modelling, and others.
This research is developed in collaboration with the Cities, Infrastructure and Energy research group, specifically with colleagues from the Project Management and Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure teams.
Architecture and structures
Working at the interface between architecture and structural engineering, our ongoing research focuses on understanding the relationship between form and forces for design and structural optimisation. We explore the opportunities offered by computational tools, advanced manufacturing and robotics in creating innovative and resilient structural systems. These activities are conducted in close collaboration with the Cities, Infrastructure and Energy research group.
We enjoy state of the art facilities housed at the School of Civil Engineering including the UKCRIC Centre for Infrastructure Materials, Solid Waste Management and Sample Preparation Laboratory, and the George Earle Heavy Structures Laboratory, with specialised rigs for full-scale performance testing of structures, fatigue, long-term loading effects (creep), as well as a dedicated concrete casting shop and an environmentally controlled curing room.
We have opportunities for prospective postgraduate researchers. Find out more.
If you would like to discuss an area of research in more detail, please contact Professor Susan Bernal.