Imperial College London

Imperial researcher scoops Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship

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Photo of plane taking off from a white, icy runway against a bright blue but cloudy sky

Dr Alalea Kia has won a Research Fellowship to further develop permeable pavements to curb snow and ice buildup at airports.

Airport infrastructure, which includes pavements and runways, is vulnerable to disruption caused by hydroplaning from flooding, ice and snow, and current methods for preventing ice and snow build-up have been shown to

Portrait photo of Dr Alalea Kia
Dr Alalea Kia

damage the environment and infrastructure surfaces. This leads to significant maintenance costs and can put aircraft at risk if such damage goes undetected.

Permeable concrete pavements, which absorb water, are a promising mitigation strategy to prevent surface flooding and ice and snow build-up. However, conventional permeable pavements are unsuited for airport use.

Through laboratory experimentation, numerical modelling and large-scale field sites, Dr Kia, of Imperial College London’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will use her Research Fellowship to engineer a new system capable of keeping airport infrastructure clear from surface water, ice and snow all year round, regardless of adverse weather events.

The long-term support provided by this Research Fellowship will allow me to develop next-generation climate change resistant permeable pavements with my academic collaborators and industrial partners. Dr Alalea Kia Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr Kia said: “It is an honour to be awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship. Current permeable pavements need frequent maintenance due to premature clogging, which degrades performance and service life and would be difficult to use at an active airport. Most importantly, conventional permeable pavements tend to be weak, making them unsuited for airport use.”

Research Fellowships are the Academy’s flagship scheme for supporting outstanding early-career researchers to become future research leaders in engineering. The fellowships are designed to advance excellence in engineering by providing funding for five years to allow awardees the freedom to concentrate on fundamental research in any field of engineering.  

In addition to funding, awardees also receive mentoring from a pool of more than 180 Academy Fellows, who provide valuable advice and industry links.  

Dr Kia has scooped one of the 16 fellowships awarded this year as part of its celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Research Fellowships scheme.

She added: “The long-term support provided by this Research Fellowship will allow me to develop next-generation climate change resistant permeable pavements with my academic collaborators and industrial partners. These novel pavements will be capable of improving infrastructure resilience to extreme weather and loading conditions.”

Photo of plane propeller with two airport workers during a snowstorm. Visibility is low
Current methods for preventing ice and snow build-up have been shown to damage the environment and infrastructure surfaces.

Main image and image 2: Shutterstock

Image 1: Dr Alalea Kia

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Caroline Brogan

Caroline Brogan
Communications and Public Affairs

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Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 3415
Email: caroline.brogan@imperial.ac.uk

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Sustainability, Climate-change, Engineering-Civil-Eng, Environment, Comms-strategy-Real-world-benefits, Industry, REF, Research, Transport, Global-challenges-Engineering
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