Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Academic Division: Civil Engineering
Research group: Geotechnical and Environmental
Telephone: +44 1223 3 32715
Professor Al-Tabbaa’s research revolves around the development, testing and application of technologies and materials in civil & environmental engineering for intelligent, sustainable and low carbon future infrastructure and built environment. This includes ground improvement, land remediation, low carbon cementitious materials, carbon capture and sequestration, intelligent biomimetic infrastructure systems, self-healing and self-sensing materials, ground improvement, land remediation and waste treatment and reuse. Her work covers the whole spectrum of infrastructure materials from soils to concrete. She is the author of over 200 journal papers and over 200 conference papers, 2 books and 6 book chapters.
The £1.24M TSB SMiRT project (Soil Mix Remediation Technology) has been a focal point for the research activities in land remediation and ground improvement and established the largest UK research-based full-scale field trials of a contaminated site in the UK using soil mix technology. The on-going work involves validation of field application to increase uptake of the technology and provide stakeholder confidence.
A key element of the construction materials area was the £1.67M EPSRC funded Materials for Life (M4L) project in collaboration with Cardiff (Lead) and Bath University as well as 11 international centres of excellence and 22 industrial partners. This initiative established the first UK Centre of Excellent on Intelligent Construction Materials to develop self-healing cement-based materials for geotechnical and structural applications. The goal is to significantly reduce the costs of future maintenance and enhance the sustainability and safety of future construction. This has recently been followed by the new funding of a £4.9M EPSRC Programme Grant: Resilient Materials for Life (RM4L) to expand the research and applications remit and move towards the development of truly biomimetic infrastructure Materials that are self-sensing, self-diagnosing, self-immunising, self-reporting, self-repairing low carbon and low waste.
Another major initiative is the £5M EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment, for which Professor Al-Tabbaa leads as Head and Director. The centre has funding for 50 PhD students over an eight year period (2014-2022). It train students from relevant background on research methods in the challenging technical research questions facing the future of civil engineering and the wider interlinked research areas. This has recently been followed by a new £6.7M Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment: Resilience in a Changing World, for which Professor Al-Tabbaa also leads as Head and Director.
Recently she has been leading the smart materials theme within the recently established £15M Digital Roads of the Future Initiatives which consists of the EPSRC funded Digital Roads Prosperity Partnership and the EC MSCA COFUND Fellowship Programme on Future Roads. This initiative aims to combine smart materials, digital twins, automation and robotics and data science to lead the way in the digital revolution of our vital UK road network to make roads safer and greener. It is exploring how digital twins, smart materials, data science and robotic monitoring can work together to develop a connected physical and digital road infrastructure system. The smart materials research theme focuses on the development of pavement materials that are degitalised, decarbonised and environmentally responsible. Digitalisation will include examples on the application of sensors and the development of self-sensing pavement material. Decarbonisation will cover research on low carbon and self-healing pavements. And environmental responsibility will include examples of research on use of waste and recycling of pavement materials.
Another new research activity is the EPSRC SaFEGround project exploring the potential fr maximising the thermal capacity of the ground for thermoactive geo-structures. The project is in collaboration with ICL (lead), Leeds and De Montfort University.
See publications list at:
Energy, transport and urban infrastructure
Development of smart low carbon materials for future infrastructure and built environment focusing on a range of applications including geo-environmental engineering, ground improvement, road transport, geothermal energy and construction applications.
Manufacturing, design and materials
Development and synthesis of advanced infrastructure materials and advanced fabrication and manufacturing processes including 3D printing, mould injection, extrusion, microencapsulation, impregnation, freeze-drying and others
Development of biomimetic infrastructure materials.
Complex, resilient and intelligent systems
Development of resilient and intelligent infrastructure materials and systems
STARNET, Mini-Waste, PROCESS, SUBR:IM, SMiRT, M4L, FIBE CDT, EPSRC IAA FoF grants, MATMATS, SARCOS, RM4L, FIBE2 CDT, SMARTINCS, Digital Roads, Future Roads, SaFEGround.
SRA/PDRAs: Dr Damian Palin, Dr Sripriya Rengaraju, Dr Hussam Taha, Dr Christos Vlachakis, Dr Anand Sreeram, Dr Vahid Afroughsabet
PhD students: Zijun Xie, Qiaofeng Zheng, Priya Arul Kumar, Gabriele Milone, Claire Riordan, Qingkai Chen, Han Ding, Islam Alfalouji, Bhavika Ramrakhyani, Jingqi Yin
MRes students: Natasha Balwit, India Harding, Joe Stephenson, Maxine Beh
- Chartered Engineer (CEng)
- Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (FICE)
- Head & Director, EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment (FIBE CDT)
- Director, Resilient Materials for Life (RM4L) Programme Grant
- Head & Director: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment: Resilience in a Changing World (FIBE2 CDT)
- Visiting Professor, Nanjing Tech University
- Guest Professor, Southeast University
Represented the University of Cambridge at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos
World Economic Forum IdeasLab talk – Self-healing concrete for low carbon infrastructure, January 2016
World Economic Forum blog – The concrete that heals its own cracks, December 2015
BBC Look East, BBC Breakfast News and BBC world Service
Interviewed by the BBC on our work on self-healing concrete.
Animated video for publicity on self-healing materials, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFs4KI_XvDw
Interview by the World Economic Forum as part of celebrating their 10th anniversary of their Annual report on the Top 10 Emerging Technologies, where self-healing materials made it on the list in 2013. See: https://www.weforum.org/videos/e08-self-healing-materials
Delivered an invited talk as part of the Cambridge Zero Research Symposium series together with post-docs and PhD students, see:
13 October 2021 on Adaptation and Resilience:
Prof. Abir Al-Tabbaa: Living Infrastructure
Dr Sripriya Rengaraju: Low carbon cements for sustainable infrastructure
Dr Gabriele Milone: Self-sensing skins for infrastructure
Recording at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXcAA06SwyQ
3 November 2021 on Mitigation:
Dr Christos Vlachakis: Mitigating carbon emissions by 3D printing alternative cements
Recording at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRUuJZm2NfM
17 November 2021 on Sustainability and AI
Dr Yen-fang Su: AI-enabled sensing technology for sustainable infrastructures
Recording at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mi_HLaCgAOU