Professor David Thambiratnam

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Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

PhD (University of Manitoba), MSc (University of Manitoba), BScEng(Hons) (University of Ceylon)

Professor David Thambiratnam is a Commonwealth Scholar with 35 years of international experience gained in Sri Lanka, Canada, Singapore and Australia, including over 25 years of academic experience and over seven years of industrial experience. His most recent experience includes:

  • 1996 – present: Professor, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, QUT
  • 1993 – 1996: Associate Professor School of Civil Engineering, QUT

Research Research area of Professor Thambiratnam is structural dynamics and its application, focusing on:

  • applications of new materials technology to mitigate adverse effects of extreme loading on infrastructure.
  • structural health monitoring.
  • bridge dynamics.
  • performance of structures under impact, blast and seismic loadings and disaster mitigation through structural retrofitting.
  • vibration mitigation in structures.

Publications and PhD completions:

Professor Thambiratnam has more than 500 publications in his research areas. They have been published in international refereed journals (numbered over 300) and conference proceedings and this has resulted in significant international recognition for research expertise in these areas.

He has supervised more that 80PhD students to successful completion.

Details of his research are briefly captured below:

Applications of new materials technology to mitigate adverse effects of extreme loading on infrastructure. New materials and composites such as Auxetics, FRP and GFRP are becoming increasingly popular to either enhance the response of structures under normal loadings or to mitigate the adverse effects of extreme events such as seismic, impact and blast loadings and vibration. Research in the use of FRP and GFRP to enhance the response of structural members and under seismic and impact loadings have been carried out with promising results. In recognition of his work in the area of disaster mitigation under impact loadings, he has been recently awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant to investigate the effects of vehicular crashes into masonry buildings using new generation auxetic composite renders. This research will involve advanced modelling techniques and novel experimental testing using the innovative horizontal impact testing machine at QUT (the only one of its kind in Australia) to impart realistic crash loadings to the masonry walls. This impact testing machine is the outcome of an ARC LIEF Grant with a total cash value of $1.4M awarded to him (and colleagues, supported by 10 other Australian Universities.

Structural health monitoring Structures form an important part of civil infrastructure and are normally designed to have long life spans. But changes in load patterns, deterioration with age, environmental influences and random actions can cause distress in a structure Professor David Thambiratnam has been carrying out research in this area during the past 15 years, in collaboration with government bodies and industries and supported by ARC Grants.  He has monitored changes in vibration that affect the performance of some of Brisbane’s important bridges, including:

  • Story Bridge
  • Turbot Street exit ramp (a curved bridge)
  • Fig Tree Pocket Bridge
  • Macintosh Island Suspension Bridge, Gold Coast.

Professor Thambiratnam has carried out research in this area through a combination of experimental techniques, using sensors to monitor the vibrations of these structures, and dynamic computer simulations on the structural models. In recognition of this work, he and his collogue won 2 ARC Discovery Grants in this area.

Performance of structures under impact, blast and seismic loads and disaster mitigation Accidental impacts, explosions and seismic events can have devastating effects on infrastructure and the need to mitigate the adverse effects of these actions is obvious. Professor David Thambiratnam has carried out research on the response of structures and structural systems to impact, blast and seismic load during the past 25 years, supported by Australian Research Council (ARC) and industry grants. The research was carried out through dynamic computer simulations supported by experimental testing. Some of the research findings are used in the industry for enhancing the safety of the structure, the impacting vehicle as well as the occupants. Several projects have been completed and have resulted in many PhD completions.

Vibration of slender structures Materials technology and aesthetic requirements of society have resulted in slender structures which exhibit excessive and complex vibration under human induced loads. This vibration in flexible bridges, cantilever grandstands, composite floors and cooling towers must be controlled to provide safety and comfort to users. Professor Thambiratnam has carried out research in this area for 20 years, both at QUT and prior to that at the National University of Singapore, for which he has received significant international recognition.

Major projects include:

  • Use of new materials technology to enhance performance of structures to extreme loads.
  • Blast response of glass facades and effects of structural parameters to enhance response.
  • Structural health monitoring of buildings and bridges (some projects funded by ARC grants)
  • Accident mitigation system at road- rail crossings (ARC funded project)
  • Pre-stressed force determination in pre-stressed concrete bridges (ARC funded project)
  • Intelligent system for self- evaluating damage in buildings (ARC funded project)
  • Innovative road safety barrier systems (ARC funded project - won international patent)
  • Impact and energy absorption of vehicle frontal protection systems (ARC funded project)
  • Impact response and energy absorption of thin walled tubes (Industry funded project)
  • Impact and inelastic behaviour of roll over protective structures (ARC funded project)
  • Blast response of piles and reinforced concrete buildings.
  • Response and mitigation of RC and composite columns under vehicular impacts
  • Seismic mitigation of building structures using embedded dampers
  • Composite beam column connections under monotonic & cyclic loads (ARC funded project)
  • Vibration characteristics of slender footbridges
  • Vibration of steel deck composite floors under human induced loads
  • Assessing the vibration in post-tensioned flat slabs
  • Vibration of grandstand floors.

Research findings have been published widely and have drawn international attention.

Funding Professor Thambiratnam has been continuously successful in attracting ARC, CRC and Industry Grants:

  • total value of research grants is more than $15.0m.
  • cash value of ARC Grants is more than $10.0m.

Selected grants:

  • 2020 - 2023: $415,000 - ARC Discovery Grant; Mitigating vehicular crashes into masonry buildings using new materials and damping technologies.
  • 2018 - 2022: $7,348,716 - ARC ITTC Grant; Advanced Technologies in Rail Track Infrastructure.
  • 2016 – 2019: $390,000 - ARC Discovery Grant; Development of intelligent structures that can self-evaluate deterioration.
  • 2015 – 2017: $350,000 - ARC Discovery Grant; Level crossing accident mitigation system.
  • 2013 -2015: $322,000 - ARC Discovery Grant; Development of next generation prestressed concrete bridges using moving force identification.
  • 2010 – 2013: $291,000 - ARC Linkage Grant; Industry Partner: Crowd Control Systems. Development of a novel flexible composite road safety barrier.
  • 2007 – 2010: $290,000 - ARC Linkage Grant; Industry Partners: QMRD and BCC. Structural health monitoring of bridges using vibration characteristics.
  • 2002 – 2006: $85,000 - ARC Linkage Grant; Industry Partners: Dome-shells, Australia. Performance characteristics of an innovative structural system – Compound curved sandwich shell structure.
  • 2003 – 2006: $48,000 - Industry Grant; Industry Partner: Ready-mix Concrete. Structural behaviour of concrete pavements.
  • 2002 – 2005: $102,000 – Industry Grant; Industry Partner: TJM Products Pty Ltd. Vehicle impact mitigation systems.
  • 2001- 2004: $240,000 - ARC Spirt Grant; Industry Partner: Robert Bird Group. Inelastic behaviour and energy absorption of rollover protective structures.
  • 1998 – 2000: $124,200 - ARC Spirt Grant; Industry Partners: TJM Products. Impact attenuation of frontal protection systems in passenger vehicles
  • 1997 – 2000: $144,740 - ARC Collaborative Grant; Industry Partners: Robert Bird Group. Composite beam-column connections under earthquake loading.
  • 1993 – 1995: $105,000 - ARC Large Grant; Dynamic response of curved bridge structures.
  • 1992 – 1994: $90,000 - ARC Collaborative Grant Industry Partners: QLD Railway. Structural behaviour of railway tracks

Awards and recognition

  • Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship
  • University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship
  • Commendation by Applied Research Corporation, Singapore
  • Commended by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for professional work.
  • Higher Degree Supervision Award, 2006 and 2010
  • Vice Chancellor’s Performance Award, 2008 and 2010
  • STEM Award 2010 for Outstanding Supervision of HDR students.
  • International Patent for Innovative Road Safety Barrier System (2015)

Additional information

Interests and Community Service

  • Editorial Board - Regular International Conferences: SEMC  (South Africa) and Civil Comp (Europe)
  • Member - Review Board of more than 10 international journals
  • International Expert Reviewer - ARC Grants and Research   Grants from UK, South Africa, Israel  and Hong Kong.
Mitigating Vehicular Crashes into Masonry Buildings
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
ARC Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Rail Track Infrastructure
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Development of Intelligent Structures That Can Self-Evaluate Deterioration
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Mitigating the Severity of Level Crossing Accidents and Derailments
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Impact Dnamics; Level Crossing; Accident
Development of next generation prestressed concrete bridges using moving force identification
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Prestressed Concrete Bridges; Moving Force Identification; Structural Health Monitoring
A New Generation High Crash Energy Absorbing Barrier for Improved Road Safety
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Road Safety Barrier; Crash Energy Absorption; Flexible; Polymeric Foams; Composites
Monitoring and Maintaining the Structural Health of Bridges Using Vibration Characteristics
Primary fund type
CAT 1 - Australian Competitive Grant
Project ID
Start year
Vibration; Sensors; Computer Simulation; Bridges; Damage; Structural Health