Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Civil Engineering and Surveying

Start dates

October 2021

Application deadline

4 May 2021 (12.00pm GMT)

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2021. 

The PhD will be based in the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying and will be supervised by Dr Alireza Tatari, Dr Muhammad Ali and Dr Brett Martinson.

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available; these cover tuition fees at the UK rate for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£15,609 for 2021/22). Bursary recipients will also receive a £1,500 p.a. for project costs/consumables. 

The work on this project could involve

  • Physicochemical investigations into the use of natural stabiliser to examine the durability, mechanical properties and sustainability of compressed earth building blocks.
  • Macro finite element and sensitivity analysis for stabilised compressed earth building blocks through the development of new material models. 
  • Accurate prediction and validation of mechanical properties, damage patterns and crack propagation in compressed earth building blocks and structures via numerical simulation. 

Earth is recognised to be one of the first and most utilised building materials with evidence suggesting that humans have been shaping and compacting earth to form shelters for centuries. It is widely recognised that more than a third of all humanity lives in dwellings constructed with earth, particularly in low-income countries where there is a huge demand for cost-effective, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly yet durable construction materials. One such material is the compressed earth blocks (CEBs), which offers multi-tiered benefits such as improved mechanical properties, ease and fast pace construction, low embodies energy, high thermal mass and fire/earthquake resistance among others.

While the addition of cement or lime has proven successful in increasing the mechanical strength and durability of CEBs, the incorporation and associated production of chemical stabilisers such as Portland cement contributes significantly to anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and has a significant impact on the cost of production. Therefore, the partial or total replacement of cement/lime with natural cementitious materials like xanthan gum, guar gum and/or gelatine is critical to the achievement of sustainable development of structures built using stabilised earth blocks.

Over the past several years, the SCES has been making advances in the development of enhanced CEBs. The previous work encompassed various studies on fibre reinforced CEB’s, international fieldwork, design and fabrication of UoP CEB machine. This project will expand research into physicochemical investigations into the use of natural stabiliser to examine the durability, mechanical properties and sustainability of the UoP CEB’s. The study will also include numerical modelling of CEB’s and structures using Ansys/Abaqus to accurately predict stress/strain formation, damage patterns and crack propagation. The outcomes from this project will influence policymakers and practitioners to utilise natural stabiliser in CEB’s as an alternative to cement or kiln-fired bricks. 

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Background in the use of FEA software would be desirable for this project.  

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Alireza Tatari ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SCES5880521 when applying.