Professor Leon Black

Professor Leon Black


My first degree was in chemistry, graduating from the University of Bristol in 1992, followed by an MSc in Advanced Analytical Chemistry when I first developed an interest in material degradation. So, this MSc was followed with a PhD in 1997; ‘Understanding the Factors Influencing the Development of a Patina on Architectural Lead’. I lived for 5 years in Germany, working initially on nuclear materials, then using various techniques (electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, thermal analysis, etc) to understand the structure of calcium silicate hydrates. I returned to the UK in 2004 and joined the Materials Research Institute at Sheffield Hallam University, developing the use of Raman spectroscopy for the analysis of cements. 

In 2007 I moved from SHU to take up a lectureship at the University of Leeds, where I’ve remained to this day. Over the years, I have slowly moved my research from being applied analytical chemistry, to understanding the interplay between cement composition, microstructure and engineering performance. My research is still based on materials characterisation, but I try to use my expertise to understand how we can make materials more durable, while minimising environmental impact.


  • Director of the Centre for Infrastructure Materials
  • Director of Admissions

Research interests

I'm an analytical and materials’ chemist, who for the last 20 years has used various analytical techniques to investigate the structure and stability of cementitious materials. I spent a number of years applying Raman and photoelectron spectroscopies for the analysis of cement. More recently I've focussed on composition-microstructure-performance relationships in low-clinker binders. What does this mean? Well, I look at how the various phases in cement are affected by other materials such as slag and fly ash are added to cement. I then expose samples to aggressive environments and see which phases have been affected. This information helps us to understand concrete durability from a fundamental perspective. 

I lead the Centre for Infrastructure Materials in Leeds, a part of UKCRIC. The Centre provides state of the art facilities for the characterisation of a huge suite of materials: from cement and concrete, through metals and polymers to new biocomposites. The laboratories are also fully equipped for undertaking accelerated ageing studies on this full range of materials. More recently, I lead the “Technical Challenges” research theme for the UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre for Mineral-Based Construction Materials. Here we are trying to move the construction industry from a linear build-use-demolish approach, to a circular build-use-reuse mindset.

I was an active participant in Nanocem. My work within the consortium has led to collaborations with the Technical University of Munich, ZAG (Slovenia), Lund University and IFSTTAR (Paris).

Aside from my research, I am Editor of Advances in Cement Research.

My technical expertise includes the use of;

  • (Environmental) Scanning Electron Microscopy
  • Vibrational Spectroscopy (Raman and Infra-Red)
  • Thermal Analysis
  • X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy
  • X-ray Diffraction
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Student education

I teach civil engineering materials throughout many of the undergraduate programmes. My teaching shows how engineering performance can be understood by understanding the fundamental science behind many of the materials used throughout civil engineering. In particular, my teaching covers the fundamentals of cement hydration and the durability of concrete; bringing my research into the lecture theatre.

I am also heavily involved in the supervision of undergraduate and Masters research projects. My projects cover concrete durability and environmental aspects of cement and concrete.

Research groups and institutes

  • Materials and Structures
  • Cities, Infrastructure and Energy

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="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>