skip to content

Natural Material Innovation

Sustainable Living


Shah's detailed biography and profile is accessible here.

Shah is Associate Professor in Materials Science and Design at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Architecture, and leads research at the Centre for Natural Material Innovation (CNMI). Shah is a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

Understanding the relationships between materials, society, technology, history and nature, Shah’s research aims to design and innovate with natural materials by exploring low-energy methods of manufacture, improving structural performance, introducing multifunctionalities, translating across disciplines and application sectors. Shah's collaborative research is at the interface of architecture (design), humanities, physical sciences, and engineering, spanning multiple length scales and cutting across industry sectors. A megawatt wind turbine with a wooden tower and flax biocomposite blades. An affordable ankle-foot disability orthosis from recycled plastic waste. An off-grid low-energy house constructed from industrial hemp materials. A room-temperature processing method for silk-like textile fibres. A green policy that weaves agroforestry and construction in a circular bioeconomy approach enabling aggressive decarbonisation. These are examples of how Shah’s research and design at the CNMI imagines the replacement of anthropogenic materials with bio-based materials, such as engineered timber, bamboo, natural fibres and their composites. 

Shah has been awarded over £16million in total research project activity. His work is published in over 65 peer-reviewed journal papers, and has attracted numerous awards such as the International Quadrant Award 2015 and the JEC Asia 2013 Innovation Award, and Vice Chancellor's Research Impact Award 2020. He also regularly takes on consultancy roles.

Engaging with the wider community, Shah has contributed to policy briefings nationally (UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee and RIBA) and internationally (COP26), the design of products such as CE-Certified Covid19-control face shields, Design Rights protected bamboo cricket bats, and biocomposite boat hulls, as well as public exhibitions at the Dutch Design Week 2021, London Design Biennale 2021 and Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2019. His research frequently features in national and international media, such as on sustainable materials for wind turbines on BBC Radio 5, hemp for future homes on BBC Reel, biomaterials for the built environment on RIBA and Dezeen, natural and unnatural silks on VICE News, and bamboo cricket bats on Telegraph and Guardian.

Prior to working at Cambridge (2015-present), Darshil did post-doctoral research on silk-based and biological composites at the University of Oxford's Silk Group (Dept. of Zoology, 2013-2014), and obtained his PhD on developing plant fibre composites for wind energy applications at the University of Nottingham's Composite Research Group (Faculty of Engineering, 2009-2013).

Associate Professor in Materials Science and Design Studio Teaching
Research Leader, Centre for Natural Material Innovation
Not available for consultancy