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Dr Darshil U. Shah

Dr Darshil  U. Shah

Research Associate

Centre for Natural Material Innovation


Sidney Sussex College

Office Phone: 01223760124


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, bamboo and natural fibre 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 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 member of the 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 other fascinating 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 International Quadrant Award 2015 for outstanding scientific works in the field of engineering and high-performance plastics and composites, and the JEC Asia 2013 Innovation Award for the world’s first functional flax composite wind turbine blade.

Darshil teaches in the Dept. of Engineering (supervisions for Materials 1A and 1B), and in the Dept. of Materials Science and Metallurgy (Supervisor for Part II Techniques Project, Demonstrations for 1A Biomaterials and IB Non-Metallic Materials). Darshil is also a STEM ambassador.


Research Interests

Structural polymer composites · Biomaterials and bioinspiration · Structure-property-processing relations in natural and man-made composites · Damage and composite health · Low-carbon materials and manufacture


Key Publications

Full list of publications here
Selected peer-reviewed journal articles

  • Vollrath, F., Mi, R., Shah, D.U., Ivory as an important model biocomposite. Curator: The Museum Journal, Special Issue on ‘Ivory in the Museum: The Elephant in Our Room’, 2018. 61(1): p. 95-110.
  • Ramage, M.H., Burridge, H., Busse-Wicher M., Fereday, G., Reynolds, T., Shah, D.U., Wu, G., Yu, L., Fleming, P., Densley-Tingley, D., Allwood, J., Dupree, P., Linden, P., Scherman, O. The wood from the trees: the use of timber in constructionRenewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2017. 68: p. 333-359

Book Chapters

Shah, D.U., Vollrath, F. ‘Silk for sustainable composites’ in ‘Natural Fibre-reinforced Biodegradable and Bioresorbable Polymer Composites’, 2017. Edited by Lau, K.T. Elsevier Ltd.

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

Processing bamboo for structural composites: Influence of preservative treatments on surface and interface properties in 17th European Conference on Composite Materials (ECCM-17). 26-30 June 2016. Munich, Germany

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.

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.

Applications for Natural Fibre Composites: Flax for Stiff, Silk for Tough in Current Developments in Biocomposites. 23 October 2014. Rotherham, UK.

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.

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.

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.

Selected articles written about my work

Coverage of our (PNAS, 2017) paper by multiple (>25) news outlets including materialtoday, Daily Mail Online, Yahoo!, (Discovery network),,, EurekaAlert! March 10-26 July.

Coverage of our (Advanced Materials Interfaces, 2017) paper by multiple (>10) news outlets including materialsgate, AZO Sensors,, nanowerk, EurekAlert!. March 17-21 2017.

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.