Materials and high-value engineering

High value engineering underpins progress in all areas of science and technology: its aim is to create higher value for its beneficiaries (Porter, 1986), whether those beneficiaries are simply a company’s shareholders (through increased profits), a nation’s economy, humanity, or the world as a whole. For example, in Civil Engineering, the higher value might concern improvements in product development or on-site construction, more efficient buildings and infrastructure, or the development of special cements that help to reduce the quantity of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. 

The School of Civil Engineering has substantial expertise in the design and delivery of civil infrastructure, ranging from the fundamental characteristics of construction materials through structural design and optimisation to novel approaches for monitoring and assessing infrastructure in situ.

Our research is driven by the need to provide safe, sustainable, durable and resilient infrastructure now and in the future. This includes considering the energy and carbon impact of infrastructure, the means of fabrication and its physical performance when subject to environmental and human stresses. 

Research areas include:

Materials chemistry and development: low carbon cements; geoploymers; chemical and mineral admixtures for concrete, including the use of industrial by-products and waste materials; recycled aggregates; composite materials; reinforced concrete; self-compacting concrete; fibre-reinforced concrete; fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composites; masonry; non-cementitious organically bound construction materials. The School possesses extensive expertise in microstructural characterization techniques, including: X-ray diffraction; thermal analysis; Raman, photoelectron, solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopies; scanning & transmission electron microscopy.

Material behaviour and applications: durability of concrete; rheological properties of engineering materials; models for fresh concrete pumping and particle suspension/sedimentation; reinforcement bonding; prestressed concrete elements; immobilisation of low and intermediate level radioactive waste; rehabilitation, repair or strengthening of masonry structures; FRP strengthened/retrofitted masonry structures; strengthening of reinforced concrete structures; repair and rehabilitation of reinforced concrete structures; resource recovery from waste; geotechnical engineering; CO2 storage.

Structural behaviour and monitoring of structures: structural design optimisation; building information modelling (BIM)‐enabled computer aided manufacturing; life-span predictions of structures; time-dependent movements including restraint; serviceability; restraint and long-term behaviour; seismic design; seismic (and fire) resistant design of steel; strengthening and retrofitting existing steel structures; robotics and autonomous systems; structural health monitoring; remote sensing; prediction of service life of reinforced concrete structures by non-destructive testing; multi-scale modelling; additive manufacturing (i.e. 3D printing) with a focus on process simulation and optimization, including the 3D printing of buildings; dynamic experimental techniques; fabrication / manufacturing / quantification of products.

Collaborations and partnerships

Research is undertaken in collaboration with academic, government and industrial partners (including manufacturers, designers, fabricators, contractors and policy makers) and in partnership with leading national and international organisations (e.g. RILEM; American Concrete Institute; Concrete Society; Steel Construction Institute; British Constructional Steelwork Association; Nanocem) as well as with nationally and internationally leading local hubs such as the Manufacturing, Digital Technologies and Leeds Manufacturing Forum. Also, we maintain a strong relationship with KTN and Innovate UK (Built Environment and the official group in Digitising the Construction Sector). 

We 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 Engneering. We also work closely with the Leeds Electron Microscopy and Spectroscopy Centre (LEMAS).

Contact us

If you would like to discuss an area of research in more detail, contact the theme lead: Professor Ian Richardson (materials) or the deputy theme lead: Dr Konstantinos Tsavdaridis (additive manufacturing and digital design)

We have opportunities for prospective PhD students including a number of studentships. Informal enquiries can be made to the deputy theme lead.