Jonathan Black

Jonathan Black

Senior Lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering (University of Sheffield) and UKCRIC Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Champion

Jonathan Black completed his undergraduate degree and PhD at Queen's University Belfast. During his doctorate studies he was appointed a Lecturing Assistant in the School of Planning, Architecture & Civil Engineering. He briefly lectured at the University of Plymouth and then joined the University of Sheffield in 2008, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 2015. 

Jonathan’s research covers the geotechnics of energy and infrastructure resilience. By understanding how the ground, and the materials the ground is made up of, holds energy and acts under various external drivers, global energy supply can be secured and made more sustainable. 

He aims to understand the foundation systems of offshore wind turbines; how they’re affected by cyclic loading, and whether their design can be improved to make them more resilient. He also looks at how climate change affects geotechnical infrastructure, such as embankments and slopes that support transport networks or flood defences. Another area of interest focuses how structures interact with the soil they’re in and how changeable ground conditions affects their performance. By understanding this performance and usage of buried infrastructure, such as water pipes, utilities and transport systems, and how external drivers within soil accelerate the aging process or stability, better management of infrastructure can be applied saving money and time.

Jonathan uses a range of investigative experimental tools in his research, including physical modelling with Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV), and internal visualisation of soil-structure interaction using transparent soil.

Specific research topics include:

  • Physical modelling of geotechnical problems using centrifuge experimental facilities
  • Transparent soils and non-intrusive physical modelling
  • Foundation engineering (such as monopile foundations for offshore wind turbines)
  • Resilience of infrastructure such as slopes, embankments, flood defences etc. to climate change
  • Soil reinforcement though mechanically stabilised soils.

Jonathan is Director of the Centre for Energy & Infrastructure Ground Research, which is home to the University of Sheffield's 4-metre geotechnical beam centrifuge and and is a co-investigator for the the National Distributed Water Infrastructure Facility (NDWIF) UKCRIC facility. 

He is responsible for the development of Soil Interaction Learning & Teaching Suite (SILTS), which is problem-based learning through physical experimentation, observation and critical reflection to enhance the student experience. This project uses a 1-metre teaching centrifuge, which allows students to design and test their own geotechnical systems.

Jonathan is the UK representative of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering Technical Committee 104 on physical modelling, and has served on the editorial panel of Géotechnique and ICE Geotechnical Engineering.