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Dr Darshil U Shah BEng (Hons), PhD


Dr Darshil Shah is a composites engineer who specialises in natural materials science and technology. Within the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at Cambridge University, Darshil is working with scientists across various disciplines (including biochemists, plant scientists, chemists, architects, engineers, and fluid dynamicists) on developing engineered wood and bamboo composites, as low-embodied energy replacement materials to steel and reinforced concrete, for the construction of skyscrapers.

Darshil obtained his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nottingham in 2013, on the topic of developing plant fibre biocomposites as sustainable and functional alternatives to traditional glass fibre composites for wind energy applications. Before working at Cambridge, he was a PDRA at Oxford University’s Silk Group for two years, developing animal silk-based polymer composites for high-toughness components. Working at the zoology department at Oxford also enabled him to study various other natural materials (such as ivory) from a materials science as well as a biological/evolutionary perspective.

Darshil's research is in the field of light-weight sustainable materials. Briefly, his work principally aims to i) fundamentally understand structure-property relations in natural materials (at the micro/meso/macro scale), which often are hierarchical, multifunctional composites, and ii) investigate the potential of their usage in conventional and innovative engineering components, often requiring thorough characterisation, optimisation and development studies and undertaking comparative case-studies. Combining sustainability with performance (including reliability/durability) in natural materials is a major focus of his research.

Darshil's high-impact research has received numerous distinguished awards, including the JEC Asia 2013 Innovation Award for the world’s first functional flax composite wind turbine blade, and the International Quadrant Award 2015 for outstanding scientific works in the field of engineering and high-performance plastics and composites.

Research Interests

• Sustainable polymers and composites and their engineering applications
• Biomaterials, bio-inspired materials, and biomimetics
• Composites science and technology
• Structure-property relations
• Light-weight, structural composites
• Fatigue
• Renewable wind energy

Key Publications

Full list of publications here
Selected peer-reviewed journal articles
  1. Shah, D.U., Bock, M.C.D., Mulligan, H., Ramage, M.HThermal conductivity of engineered bamboo composites. Journal of Materials Science, 2016. In Press.

  2. Shah, D.U., Schubel, P.JOn recycled carbon fibre composites manufactured through a liquid composite moulding process. Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites, 2016. In Press.

  3. Shah, D.U. Damage in biocomposites: Stiffness evolution of aligned plant fibre composites during monotonic and cyclic fatigue loading. Composites Part A, 2016. In Press.

  4. Shah, D.U., Porter, D, Vollrath, F. Silk cocoons as natural macro-balloon fillers in novel polyurethane-based syntactic foams. Polymer, 2015. 56: 93-101.

  5. Shah, D.U., Porter, D, Vollrath, F. Can silk become an effective reinforcing fibre? A property comparison with flax and glass composites. Composites Science and Technology, 2014. 101: 173-183.

  6. Shah, D.U. Natural fibre composites: Comprehensive Ashby-type materials selection charts. Materials & Design, 2014. 62 p. 21-31.

  7. Shah, D.U. Developing plant fibre composites for structural applications by optimising composite parameters: a critical reviewJournal of Materials Science, 2013. 48 (18) p. 6083-6107.

  8. Shah, D.U., Schubel, P.J. Can flax replace E-glass in structural composites? A small wind turbine blade case studyComposites Part B, 2013. 52 p. 172-181.

  9. Shah, D.U., Schubel PJ, Licence P, Clifford MJ, Fatigue life evaluation of aligned plant fibre composites through S-N curves and constant-life diagrams. Composites Science and Technology, 2013. 74 p. 139-149.

  10. Shah, D.U., Schubel, P.J., Clifford, M.J. Modelling the effect of yarn twist on the tensile strength of unidirectional plant fibre yarn compositesJournal of Composite Materials, 2013. 47 (4) p. 425-436.

  11. Shah, D.U., Schubel, P.J., Licence, P., Clifford, M.J. Determining the minimum, critical and maximum fibre content for twisted yarn reinforced plant fibre compositesComposites Science and Technology, 2012. 72 p. 1909-1917.


Book Chapters

Shah, D.U., Clifford, M.J. ‘Compaction, permeability and flow simulation for liquid composite moulding of natural fibre composites’ to appear in ‘Manufacturing of natural fibre reinforced polymer composites’, 2015. Springer-Verlag, New York, USA.


Selected Conference Papers/Presentations


  • Shah, D.U. Probing the role of xylan in the irreversible deformation of Arabidopsis thaliana in 8th International Plant Biomechanics Conference. 29 November – 4 December 2015. Nagoya, Japan.

  • Shah, D.U. Silk for light-weight syntactic foams and tough textile composites in SAMPE/ACMA’s Composites and Advanced Materials Expo (CAMX 2015). 26-29 October 2015. Dallas, USA.

  • Shah, D.U. Engineering biomaterials: Wood, ivory and silk for advanced applications in University of Nottingham’s Doctoral Inaugural Lecture. 6 May 2015. Nottingham, UK. 
  • Shah, D.U. Applications for Natural Fibre Composites: Flax for Stiff, Silk for Tough in Current Developments in Biocomposites. 23 October 2014. Rotherham, UK.
  • Shah, D.U. Sustainable polymer composites for wind turbine blades at Leibniz Young Polymer Scientist Forum at the Leibniz Institute of Interactive Materials (DWI-RWTH). 27-28 August 2014. Aachen, Germany.
  • Shah, D.U., Schubel, P.J. Can flax replace E-glass in structural composites? A small wind turbine blade case study in 5th International Conference on Sustainable Materials, Polymers and Composites (ECOCOMP). 3-4 July 2013. Birmingham, UK.
  • Shah, D.U., Schubel, P.J., Clifford, M.J., Licence, P. Fatigue characterisation of plant fibre composites for small-scale wind turbine blade applications in 5th Innovative Composites Summit (in JEC Asia 2012). 26-28 June 2012. Singapore.
  • Shah, D.U., Schubel, P.J., Clifford, M.J., Licence, P. Fatigue characterisation of plant fibre composites for small-scale wind turbine blade applications in SAMPE Europe Student Conference 2012 (in SAMPE Europe 33rd International Conference SEICO 12). 24-25 March 2012. Paris, France.
  • Shah, D.U., Schubel, P.J., Clifford, M.J., Licence, P., Warrior, N.A. Yarn optimisation and plant fibre surface treatment using hydroxyethylcellulose for the development of structural bio-based composites in 18th International Conference on Composite Materials (ICCM-18). 21-27 August 2011. Jeju, South Korea.


Selected articles written about my work

  • Sealy, C. Silk shows new strengths in composites in Reinforced Plastics, 2016. 59(6): 294-301. My interview and work on silk composites and the opportunities they present.

  • Milius, S. Parchment worms are best pinched in the dark in ScienceNews (Magazine of the Society for Science & the Public). 28 July 2014. My work on the sturdy biocomposite tube housing of bioluminescent marine worms.
  • Brownell, B. Biocomposites’ silk reinforced future in Architect (The Magazine of the American Institute of Architects). 29 May 2014. My interview on my published paper on the compaction behaviour of silk textiles. 
  • Sealy, C. Silk fibres come on strong in composites in Materials Today: News. 13 May 2014. My interview on my published paper on the compaction behaviour of silk textiles. 
  • Reade, L. Natural selection in Composites in Manufacturing (CiM) Magazine. 24 September 2013. p. 42-43. My interview on the performance of natural fibres in structural components appears as a cover story.