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Department of Architecture



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).


Shah co-leads the Centre for Natural Material Innovation (CNMI) with Prof Michael Ramage. Shah specialises in natural materials science and technology. Combining sustainability with performance and functionality in natural materials is a major driver of his research.

Shah's research projects have attracted funding from industry, government, philanthropic foundations, and venture/consultancy. For example, Shah’s industry-led projects at the CNMI (TIMBER, 2022-2025, £263k; Precision Engineered Timber, 2019-2022, £500k) have developed digital workflows and robotic fabrication methods for off-site prefabrication of timber school buildings. With colleagues, Shah is pioneering sustainable natural materials for sports (Circular Economy Hub, Circular Cricket Gear, 2022-2023) and cascading uses of wood-based materials in buildings through novel concepts of Urban Forests and Sawmills (Horizon Europe, WoodCircles, 2023-2027, €7.8M). His across-the-supply-chain research on flax used multi-scale analysis to develop new textiles and composites for diverse sectors (Interreg France-Channel-England, FLOWER, 2018-2023, €5.2M).

In the Academic Year 2022-23, Shah had a number of active research projects:

  • WOODCIRCLES: Integrated, circular, and digitally supported sustainable solutions for waste minimization and carbon capture in buildings and the construction sector (Project 101082184), funded by UKRI/European Commission through Horizon Europe. Led by Danish Technological Institute and 21 partners.
    PI M Ramage; Co-I Shah and Koronaki; June 2023-May 2027; €7.8M total, €781k to Cambridge.

Propose Urban Forests (i.e. existing buildings) and Urban Sawmills as mainstream sources of low-carbon harvested and recovered (recycled or re-used) building materials. Emphasis on material flow analyses and passporting, strategies for designing for deconstruction, digitalization, performance documentation of recovered materials, sustainability assessment, proposition of new business models.

        PI M Ramage; Co-I Shah and Koronaki; Sept 2021 – March 2025; £263,000

        Developing novel pathways for the supply of underutilised local woodland resources into high-value, long-lasting building applications. The project aims to unlock the potential of English forestry by adding value through the design and prototyping/manufacture of structural building components, leading to greater capacity of home-grown low-carbon construction. Funds Dario Marino as PDRA.

  • Rapid prototyping of bamboo cricket bats, AHRC/EPSRC IAA Rapid Response Award
    PI D Shah. Apr 2023 – July 2023, £15,000.

Working with Cambridge Enterprise to commercialise bamboo cricket bats, with a first stage feasibility study through rapid prototyping of optimised bats

  • CamBoom: Towards user acceptability of bamboo cricket bats, AHRC IAA Impact Fund
    PI D Shah. July 2023 – June 2023, £15,000

Working with Cambridge Enterprise to commercialise bamboo cricket bats, with technical performance testing of prototyped bats, as well as stakeholder/user engagement studies.

Explore alternative materials and concepts for the circular design of gloves and balls, considering performance, sustainability, supply-chain, and access criteria.

  • Kirigami-folded biodegradable plant pots, funded by the Caledonian Tree Company.
    PI Shah; Oct 2021 – May 2023, £60,000.

Develop biodegradable plant-based plastics, as alternatives to recycled HDPE, for the Air-Pot® container. Funded Jodie Mitchell.

Develop close-to-market non-woven and aligned flax fibre reinforcement textiles and produce demonstrators for the automotive (interior headliners), marine (hull, deck and fins of a sailing yacht), point-of-sales advertising (display boards), wind energy (1kW turbine blade), and food transportation (refrigerated truck panels) sectors.

        transl: New insights in the durability of flax fibres through the study of ancient Egyptian textiles, funded by the French National Research Agency
PI A Bourmaud (
University of South Brittany), J Beaugrand (Co-I, INRAE, France's National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment), French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO), SOLEIL Synchrotron, Louvre Museum; Nov 2021 – April 2025; €471,000 (€15,000 to UCAM)

Bridging archaeology, botany and materials engineering, we use multi-analytical micro-spectroscopy  techniques to map and link how and why the processing, properties and uses of linen evolved over 4,000 years, and unravel the ageing process of linen textiles for advanced materials.


Key publications: 

>70 Peer-reviewed journal publications. Google Scholar: Citations = 5352, h-index = 34, i10-index = 58. 

Selected articles


Book Chapters

Bourmaud, A., Shah, D.U. ‘Plant cell wall composition and structure’ in ‘Key insights in Biomass valorization using Fungi: Focus on biorefinery technology’. Edited by M’Barek, H.N., Perré, P., Hajjaj, H. 2022. Springer

Shah, D.U. Materials selection charts for designing products with biocomposites’ in ‘Encyclopaedia in Renewable and Sustainable Materials. Volume: 8. Biodegradable and Bio-based Materials', 2020. Edited by Chaudhary, IA, Hashmi, S. Volumer 2, p. 768-780. Elsevier Ltd, Oxford

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.


White Papers & Policy Briefings

Debnath, R., Bardhan, R., Mohaddes, K., Shah, D.U., Ramage, M.H., Alvarez, R.M. People-centric Emission Reduction in Buildings: A Data-driven and Network Topology-based Investigation. Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 2022, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

Ramage, M., Shah, D.U., Bukauskas, A., Koronaki, A., Colman, A., Gatóo, A., Wiegand, E., Gin, Y., Debnath, R. Environmental Audit Committee Call for Evidence: “Sustainability of the Built Environment”. Cambridge Open Engage, 2021.
Paper selected by Committee; Ramage invited to give evidence in House of Parliament, 17 Nov 2021

Reyes, N., Rodríguez, B., Wiegand, E., Zilic, F., Ramage, M., Bukauskas, A., Debnath, R., Shah, D.U., Colman, T., de Wolf, C., Koronaki, A., Gatoó, A., Gin, Y. Achieving zero carbon emissions in the construction sector: The role of timber in decarbonising building structures. Cambridge Open Engage, 2021.
Invited to submit with the Chilean Senate, and included in COP26 discussions

Debnath, R., Bardhan, R., Shah, D.U., Koronaki, A., Bukauskas, A., Colman, A., Gatóo, A., Wiegand, E., Gin, Y., Ramage, M. Climate repair through built environment: Decarbonising UK’s building sector through energy efficiency and natural materials. Cambridge Open Engage, 2021
Submitted to Royal Institution for British Architects


Intellectual Property (Design Rights)

Darshil Shah, Michael Ramage and Ben Tinkler-Davies. ‘Bamboo cricket bat’, Design Rights #6170095-98 UK. Filed and granted 2022.

Darshil Shah, Michael Ramage and Ben Tinkler-Davies. ‘Bamboo cricket bat’, Design Rights #4163-1975-9160 Australia. Filed and granted 2022.



Media appearances

Teaching and Supervisions


Undergraduate teaching:

BA Architecture Tripos:

  • Part IA Fundamental Principles of Construction (2019-present)

  • Part IB Design Studio 5 (Lent term) (2022-present)

  • Part II Architectural Engineering (2019-2023)

MEng Engineering Tripos:

  • Part IIB MEng Individual Projects (50% of final year mark) for the Department of Engineering (2017-present)

Postgraduate teaching:

  • Course Module Lead for the MSt Architecture (Degree Apprenticeship)Module 3 Architectural Computing and Modelling Master Class (2020-present)
  • Supervisor and Internal Examiner on MPhil/MArch programme (2020-present)

Other teaching:

  • Summer Programme Course Director, Tutor, and Advanced Diploma Marker at ICE, running adult-learning courses (2019-present)
  • Academic Advisory Committee and an Internal Examiner for the MSt IDBE (Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment Master of Studies programme), run jointly by the Depts. of Architecture & Engineering and Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2022-present)

Shah has a PGCert in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education (2019-2021, University of Cambridge), and is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Shah co-led the development of the new interdisciplinary Design Tripos with colleagues, securing substantial funding from the University (Academic Seed Funding (£581k) for initial development, SIF fund (£811k) for implementation).

Shah is Department Subject Convenor (Undergraduate Admissions Director; 2022-present). He plays an active role in Diversifying Admissions & Outreach at St John’s College.

Other Professional Activities

Professional Memberships
2022 – present                  FIMMM, Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3)
2018 – present                  AFHEA, Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Journal Editorships and Advisory Board Memberships

2021 – present                  Editorial Advisory Board of Nanofabrication (De Gruyter) and Biomaterials and Polymers Horizon
2022 – 2023                      Guest Editor for Composites Part C (Elsevier). ‘Biobased composites for advanced applications’
2020 – 2022                      Topics Advisory Panel for MDPI Materials
2019 – 2020                      Guest Editor for MDPI Materials. ‘High Performance Natural Fibre Composites
2018 – 2019                      Guest Editor for Frontiers in Plant Science. ‘
Natural Fiber Products and Their Multi-Scale Nature’

Peer Reviewer

2013 – present                 Journals: Various incl. Nature Communications; Scientific Reports; J of Royal Society Interface; Composites Science Technology; Composites Part A; J of Materials Science; MDPI Materials

2018 – 2020                     Book Proposals: Elsevier and Woodhead Publishing

Course Advisory Committee Memberships

2022 – present                 Academic Advisory Committee for the MSt Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE) programme taught through the Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

2021 – present                 Advisory Committee of the biennial European Summer School on Bio-based Composites

Scientific Conference Committee Memberships

2019 – present                 Committee member for the International Conference on Sustainable Innovation (2023 – present), International Polysaccharide Conference (2021), International Conference on Materials Research and Innovation (2019 – present) amongst others

2018 – present                 Session organizer and Chair for 12th International Materials Education Symposium (2023), International Conference on Natural Fibres (2021, 2023), 18th European Conference on Composite Materials (2018) amongst others

Expert Consultant

2022 – present                  University of Creative Arts on sustainable materials for cricket gear, e.g. vegan leather

2021 – present                  Cambridge Enterprise on commercialisation of CamBoom: Bamboo cricket bats

2017 – present                  Margent Farm Ltd on hemp-based products, e.g. Hemp corrugated panels for Flat House

2017 – 2020                      Cambridge Innovation Consultancy on landscaping reviews for bioresins, foams, polymers

2014 – 2015                     Oxford Biomaterials Ltd on developing silk-based composite products, e.g. bicycle helmets

Associate Professor in Materials Science and Design
Co-Lead, Centre for Natural Material Innovation
Fellow in Architecture and Design, St John's College
Director of Studies, St John's College
Design Fellow Year 2, Studio 5