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Natural Material Innovation

Sustainable Living

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.





Latest news

Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2019

27 June 2019

Come visit us at our 'Timber Towers of Tomorrow' exhibit at The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2019, London from the 1st to 7th July 2019 (10am to 6pm)

New insight into the structure of building blocks of plant biomass.

6 November 2018

In a paper recently published in Plant Physiology we investigate the structure and function of one of an important component of plant biomass – galactoglucomannan (GGM). The GGM is a polysaccharide, a polymer made from multiple sugar molecules joined together. It is one of the principal components of softwood, wood from...

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

15 June 2018

FLOWER aims to develop innovative flax fibre reinforcements for sustainable composites applications in the marine, automotive and point-of-sale advertising sectors

Professor Paul Dupree named a 2017 Highly Cited Researcher

7 December 2017

We are thrilled by the news that Professor Paul Dupree, our project Co-I has been named a 2017 Highly Cited Researcher,with the Dupree group’s research among the top 1% most cited works in the field of plant and animal biology. Professor Dupree commented that: “ I’m very proud to be named a 2017 Highly Cited Researcher...