skip to primary navigationskip to content

Understanding and designing improved functional materials

The interdisciplinary nature of our group and the diversity of our collective experience offer a unique perspective on natural materials and how they might be improved for multi-story construction. This is reflected in the diversity of our approach and the collaborative research and development of enhanced natural materials. These endeavours inter-splice the fields of chemistry, mathematics, materials science, biochemistry, design and structural engineering to augment sustainable architecture of the future. By interrogating structural hierarchy in natural materials and the biochemical interactions of cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin, we seek to enhance micro-scale properties that will translate into building scale benefits. Through novel material combinations and treatments we seek to endow new properties in engineered natural materials with improved durability, fire resistance, and thermal mass. Informed by a deep understanding of chemical, biological and buildings scales, we simultaneously seek to address natural heterogeneity, visco-elasticity, hygroscopic stability and heterogeneity in high rise and commercial building.


Applied Research - With a focus on real world applications, our current research explores:

1,  Novel combinations of engineered bamboo and performance fibre reinforcements designed for localised stiffening and optimised strength properties. The failure mode of  unreinforced engineered bamboo is similar to that of fibre reinforced polymers which exhibit limited ductility and rapid fracture propagation. Through the application of reinforcing surface fibres, we aim to increase ductility, contain internal stresses and allow for higher structural loading.

2,  The relationship between the middle lamella and the fracture of timbers at the cellular level

3,  The relationship between cell wall architecture and creep behaviours.

4,  Surface treatments and synthetic polymerisation of the cellular architecture of timber and bamboo. 

5,  Improved moment connections and fixings between natural and man-made materials.





RSS Feed Latest news

FLOWER approved by the Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme

Jun 15, 2018

Development of innovative flax fibre reinforcements for composite applications

A strategy to improve the processing of softwood to sustainable biomaterials and biofuels

Sep 21, 2017

In a paper recently published in Biotechnology for Biofuels we are looking at a possible way to improve the processing of timber derived from conifers to feedstock used for sustainable manufacturing of novel biomaterials and biofuels. Softwood, as any other timber, is predominantly composed of plant secondary cell walls - an intricate matrix of polysaccharides and phenolic compounds which surround wood cells. Due to abundance of trees, plant secondary cell walls are the largest, renewable, resource of bioenergy on the planet.

Green method developed for making technical fibres

Sep 07, 2017

The team at the Centre for Natural Material Innovation has designed a super stretchy, strong and sustainable material that mimics the qualities of spider silk and viscose rayon, and is ‘spun’ from a material that is 98% water.

View all news