Dr Xiaohui Chen

Dr Xiaohui Chen


Dr Chen is an Associate Professor in Geotechnical Engineering and a Chartered Environmentalist (UK) at the University of Leeds. He has highly cross-disciplinary research experience in both geomechanics and geochemistry. Dr Chen's research attention has been focused on multiphase-multicomponent reactive fluids transport in deformable soils/rocks. He has developed particular strengths in coupled physical-chemical process by conducting research of groundwater interactions with subsurface geochemistry/ geomicrobiology and their effects on multiphase flow geomechanics. This research attempts to achieve a deeper understanding of the influence of geochemical reactions and micro-organisms activities on the transport of groundwater/air and the subsequent alteration of stress/strain. Such research has widely cross-disciplinary industrial applications such as geotechnical engineering (e.g. borehole/tunnel instability), water research (flooding analysis), subsurface disposal (e.g. underground nuclear waste storage and CO2 sequestration), sustainable agriculture (e.g. soils), and environmental engineering such as groundwater flow, pollution transport, contaminated land restoration. This study is also directly related to some contemporary researches such as unconventional & tight gas; oil shale and oil sand, greenhouse gas and renewable energy, etc.   

Geomodelling and Artificial Intelligence Group: Dr Chen has established the Geomodelling and AI Group, with11 PhD students (including two external international students), substantial financial support (>£1m) from research councils (e.g. NERC, EPSRC, CSC) and world-leading industry partners. The group provides cross-cutting-edge research in theoretical, mathematical, numerical and AI modelling in the field of Geoengineering. The group has a recognized impact in multiple fields industry such as the Petroleum industry, Nuclear Waste industry, Carbon Capture and Storage, Landfill, Tunnelling etc. This group has an established network with world-leading academics (e.g. BGS, Cardiff University; Delft University of Technology, Netherlands; Beijing Normal University & Nanjing University, China; Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India). The research output of this group supports the goals of low carbon long-life geo-infrastructure, circular economy, and environmental protection to mitigate the effects of climate change on human civilization.

Activities and Distinctions:

  • First author of "Top 5 Highly Downloaded Articles in 2013" from International Journal of Engineering Science (IF:9.052).
  • Champion the themed issue of Environmental Geotechnics (2020-2021): “Physical-Chemical Coupling in Environmental Geotechnics”.
  • First author of an article (2018) from International Journal of Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics (IF:2.481), which fundamentally extended Darcy's Law, Fick's Law, Fourier's law. Reviewers’ comments on this paper: “The manuscript is a welcome complement to the existing literature on frictional forces in membranes.”
  • Co-author of the "front cover" article from Environmental Science & Technology (IF:7.149).
  • Solo author of an article from International Journal of Solids and Structures (IF:2.787).
  • One of the founders of Tay-Gene Geotechnical Centre (2014-2015), Dundee.
  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy, was nominated for a university teaching award of “most inspiration moments”, and contributed to increasing the satisfaction rate of students in Civil Engineering at UoA from 65% to 97% (NSS) (2015).
  • ORS Award (2007-2010), and NERC PDRA within £3m BIGRAD consortium (2010-2014).

International Journal Editing Roles

  • Associate Editor of the Journal: Geomechanics and Geoengineering
  • Editor Board: Environmental Geotechnics


  • Programme leader in Civil Engineering
  • Programme leader in Civil and Structural Engineering

Research interests

Key Research Topics

  • Mixture Coupling Theory: This research aims to develop a unified theory for multiphase flow transport in deformable porous media, with applications in multiple disciplinary such as Geotechnics (e.g. nuclear waste disposal, CCS, borehole instability etc.), Medical and Bio Tissue Engineering (e.g. Cancer research and tumor growth) and Chemical Engineering etc.     
  • Coupled modelling in Geotechnics (Thermos-Hydro-Mechanical-Chemical-Bio): This research aims to fill the gap between the subsurface geochemistry/geomicrobiology/ hydrogeology/mineralogy and their effects on chemical transport. The research will develop a deeper understanding of the influence of geochemical reactions and micro-organism activity on the transport of groundwater/heat/gas/air/radionuclide and the subsequent alteration of stress/strain underground. 
  • Radionuclides transport (modelling): This research aims to provide numerical analysis of radionuclide (U, Np, Pu) reactive transport via water or gas (I/LLW) through engineered barriers (clay for HLW and Portland cement for I/LLW), host rock (very low permeability shales for HLW or hard rock for ILW/LLW) and the geosphere. 
  • Agriculture soil in extreme weather (modelling): This research aims to provide mathematical and numerical model of agriculture soil under extreme weather influence (especially for temperature variation and flood condition). Additionally, sludge will be also studied as it may play an important role in saving organic carbon as biomass.

Key Research Projects

  • Sustainable Agriculture: BIOchemical-physical-biological function of Sludge in Agriculture Soils (BIOSAS). Dr Chen is the academic leader of BioSAS consortium that is funded by White Rose Consortium. BioSAS network includes three universities (University of Leeds, University of Sheffield and University of York), 6 academics (4 Professors) and 3 fully funded PhD studentships. This network aims to develop a multidisciplinary approach to save our soils with organic wastes, and reduce flooding risks by using a natural process. 
  • New Coupled Thermo-Hydro-Mechanical-Chemical Model for Nuclear Waste Disposal.



  • PhD The University of Manchester, 2010
  • MSc Dalian University of Technology, 2007
  • BEng Dalian University of Technology, 2003

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy
  • Chartered Environmentalist
  • Member of The SocEnv
  • Member of The Institution of Environmental Science

Student education

I presently teach

CIVE1460 Properties of Materials: Water, Soil, Steel and Timber

CIVE2470 Water Engineering and Geotechnics

CIVE5574/5575 (MSc) Groundwater Pollution and Contaminated Land (Module Leader)

CIVE5591M Environmental Engineering and Project Management Dissertation

CIVE5593M Water, Sanitation and Health Engineering Dissertation

CIVE5708M Individual Research Project


Research groups and institutes

  • Water, Public Health and Environmental Engineering

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>
    <li><a href="//phd.leeds.ac.uk/project/906-coupled-thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical-modelling">Coupled Thermo-Hydro-Mechanical-Chemical Modelling</a></li> <li><a href="//phd.leeds.ac.uk/project/907-temperature-water-plant-soil-coupled-modelling-for-biogeotechnics">Temperature-water-plant-soil coupled modelling for biogeotechnics</a></li>