Numerical Modelling in Materials Science of Fibre Reinforced Compressed Earth Blocks

  • Application end date: 11th February 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (EU/UK students only)
  • Department: School of Civil Engineering and Surveying
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Muhammad Ali, Dr Alireza Tatari, Dr Brett Martinson

Project code: ENGN4150218

Project description

There is a huge demand for low cost housing throughout the world, particularly in the developing countries. Freely available building materials such as soil and waste materials from crop production can be utilised to manufacture natural Fibre Reinforced Compressed Earth Blocks (FRCEB). Recent research into FRCEB has shown that inclusion of natural fibres at an optimal rate can significantly improve physical, mechanical and durability properties of the material. However, there is a need to develop better understanding of the performance of FRCEB using advanced material sciences and computing techniques.

The broad aim of this research is to bridge the gap between experimental testing and numerical modelling of FRCEB. Numerical modelling will be utilised to evaluate the performance and behaviour of soil and fibres when subjected to different loading conditions. This research will develop reliable and accurate numerical models based on existing research on FRCEB developed at the University of Portsmouth. The Finite Element Method (FEM) modelling will be used to simulate the nonlinear shear behaviour of the fibre reinforced blocks. Two approaches (micro and macro modelling) will be considered for the simulation of the experimental results, calibration of the FEM model based on the experimental results and the sensitivity analysis which will further explore the impact of variability of the properties of the FRCEB.

The methodology and design of this research can be broadly classified into four stages, which will be linked together to deliver the project. They include: Background studies on existing experimental and numerical modelling, laboratory testing, development and validation of numerical models using a computer aided tool to access and improve the performance and durability of the material. This study is important because it is a pathway to validate and develop existing research on FRCEB, an alternative low cost, environment friendly building material. It is anticipated that the entire project with all its stages will be concluded within the standard research degree time-frame.

The successful applicant will become part of a dynamic research team within the Materials, Structures and Geotechnics Research Group at the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, where we have considerable expertise in soil mechanics and fibre reinforced structures, and is supported by the University research themes of Future and Emerging Technologies, Sustainability and the Environment.

Supervisor profiles

Dr Muhammad Ali

Dr Alireza Tatari

Dr Brett Martinson

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

The project requires a candidate with suitable honours degree (or equivalent) in Civil Engineering, Computing or Materials Science or a related subject, and a desire to excel as a researcher together with disciplined work habits. Training will be offered on FEM software including PLAXIS, DIANA or ABACUS and on other relevant laboratory equipment. A suitable MSc/MPhil/MEng degree with background in computer modelling is desirable. This project is suitable for both home/EU and or International students.


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Muhammad Ali at (02392 842398) or Dr Alireza Tatari at (02392 842437).

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

We welcome applications from highly motivated prospective students who are committed to develop outstanding research outcomes. You can apply online at You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

Applications should include:
- Full CV including personal details, qualifications, educational history and, where applicable, any employment or other experience relevant to the application
- Contact details for two referees able to comment on your academic performance
- Research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of a research design you would propose to meet the stated objectives, identifying the challenges this project might present and discussing how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.
- Proof of English language proficiency (for EU students)

When applying, please quote project code: ENGN4150218

Interview date: TBC

Start date: October 2018.

Funding notes

The fully-funded, full-time three-year studentship provides a stipend that is in line with that offered by Research Councils UK of £14,553 per annum.

The above applies for Home/EU students only.

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