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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 biocompositeCurator: 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.

Recent Conference Papers/Presentations

The design of a structural biocomposite in the 8th International Conference on Structural Analysis of Advanced Materials (ICSAAM 2018). 28-31 August, 2018. Tarbes, France. (Invited Keynote)

Developing plant fibre composites for structural applications in Perspectives in Renewables. 4-5 June 2018. University of Natural Resources and Life Science (BOKU) Vienna-Tulln, Austria. (Invited Keynote)

Spider silk inspired damping fibres drawn from a supramolecular hydrogel composite at room temperature - a step closer to sustainable fibre technology in the 18th European Conference on Composite Materials (ECCM-18). 24-28 June 2018. Athens, Greece

In-situ x-ray CT and high-resolution μ-CT imaging of liquid transport in timber in the 14th International Conference on Flow Processing in Composite Materials (FPCM-14). 30 May - 1 June 2018. Luleå, Sweden.

Imaging and modelling of liquid transport in timber through in-situ X-ray CT and high-resolution μ-CT in the 9th International Plant Biomechanics Conference (PBM2018). 9-14 August, 2018. Montreal, Canada.

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.

Recent interviews

Interview on the BBC Radio 4 show ‘Farming Today’ on bioplastics and growing hemp for fibre reinforced composites. 21st July 2018.

Interview on the Cambridge TV show @7 on ‘Science Tech’ on our invention of a green method to produce artificial spider silk. Access here, 6:22 onwards.

Interview on the BBC Radio Cambridge show ‘Naked Scientists’ on our invention of a green method to produce artificial spider silk. 18th July 2017. Access here.

Interview on the BBC Radio Cambridge show ‘Naked Scientists’ on sustainable housing in the UK in 2050, and alternative building materials. 7th June 2016. Access here.

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.