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Engineering biomaterials: Innovation with wood, hemp and silk

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Most natural materials are composites with complex hierarchical structures, typically built from simple, yet efficient constituent bio-polymers and -minerals. While we have used biomaterials like wood, hemp and silk for diverse applications since pre-historic times, their potential has not been fully-exploited yet. Natural materials are of increasing interest to today’s ‘material world’ not only for direct usage (to alleviate some of the environmental issues associated with using man-made materials), but also for bioinspiration (to make novel and more efficient man-made materials). This talk will explore some of my research on biomaterials such as wood, hemp and silk and how they can be employed in a variety of structural applications, from building components to turbine blades.

Biography: Darshil Shah is Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Natural Material Innovation (Dept. of Architecture), where he explores the use of engineered wood and bamboo composites for construction, and natural fibres (such as hemp and flax) as reinforcements for structural composites. Combining sustainability with performance in natural materials is a major focus of his research and teaching. Shah was a member of the Oxford University’s Silk Group (Dept. of Zoology, 2013-2014), where he developed high-toughness silk-based polymer composites for defense and aerospace applications, and explored biomaterials such as elephant ivory for bioinspiration. Shah obtained his PhD from the University of Nottingham (2009-2013), during which he developed the world’s first 3.5-meter 11kW flax biocomposite wind turbine blade.

This talk is part of the Engineering Department Structures Research Seminars series.

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