The University of Southampton

Advanced Fibre Technologies & Applications PhD Projects

There has been a massive investment in optical fibre telecommunications technology over the last 40 years. Optical fibres lie at the very heart of modern society, providing the information superhighways required within our global communication systems. 

Within the AFTA group we are developing the fibres, fibre devices, and system concepts required for next generation telecommunication systems and investigating new applications of the technology in areas beyond telecommunications including amongst others: high power pulsed fibre lasers, industrial materials processing, aerospace, biology, sensing and fundamental physics.

The physics and applications of optical comb

Supervisors: Professor D J Richardson
Co-supervisor: Professor Radan Slavik

This PhD position is in the area of comb technology which will involve working on the various ongoing projects that we are running. The project would suit applicants with an interest in ultrafast lasers/nonlinear optics and/or ultrahigh precision measurements.

Using recent developments in laser and frequency conversion it has become possible to produce laser sources providing a comb of spectral lines with spectral frequencies accurate to parts in a thousand, million, million. Such combs have revolutionised the accuracy with which time, frequency and distance can be measured and are opening a host of new device and application opportunities.

The ORC has recently acquired a state of the art comb laser system and is investigating uses across a range of application sectors including high frequency waveform synthesis, optical sensing and metrology.

Next-generation femtosecond fibre-laser CPA sources and their applications

Supervisor: Professor D Richardson
Co-supervisor: Dr Jonathan Price

This PhD project will address the pressing challenge of significantly increasing pulse energy from a single fibre laser by incorporating newly created fibres from both the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) fabricators and collaborators to significantly advance the state-of-the-art.

Applications of femtosecond and picosecond pulse lasers are driving the forefront of laser research. This close link was recognised by the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for the development of chirped-pulse-amplified (CPA) lasers. Achieving a significant increase in the pulse energy from a single fibre laser is now reaching fundamental limitations set by nonlinear interactions in the fibres.

We are looking for applicants with a background in physics, material sciences or engineering to develop the technology needed to support future industry. There is ample scope for an ambitious student to emerge as world-leading scientist with an exceptional grounding as a potential research leader.

This project will make use of our new computer-controlled ‘tailored’ pulse-shaper, which by acting in the spectral (Fourier) domain, can dynamically apply the required phase/amplitude. This advanced laser capability will be applied by our collaborators in nonlinear imaging (bio-sciences), material surface processing (industry) and to better understand the physical processes in the fibres.

Full tuition funding, plus, for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £18,000 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. www.orc.southampton.ac.uk/phd_funding. EU students with no external funding can contend for a small number of competitive scholarships. Students from overseas who have secured some external funding are also encouraged to apply.

To discuss any details of the project or arrange a visit, please contact Dr Jonathan Price, email: jhvp@orc.soton.ac.uk

Advanced ultra-short pulse two-micron fibre lasers

Supervisor: Professor David Richardson, FRS, FREnng
Co-supervisor: Dr Jonathan Price

This fully funded project focusses on the latest fiber lasers operating in the two-micron wavelength region which have the potential to open-up a wealth of new applications in medical imaging, industrial processing and optical communications. Based on the rare ability to fabricate fibres in-house (one of just two universities in the UK), our pioneering research in the development of Thulium lasers moves in parallel with novel fibre developments.

The project will create a world leading femto/pico-second pulsed fibre laser source, addressing a host of technical challenges in the process. Nonlinear frequency conversion of the output will be used to transfer the power from the laser to longer wavelengths. The work will combine experiments and simulations, together with the theory of lasers and nonlinear optics, aligned to the  preferences of the student. Students with strong undergraduate mathematical skills are particularly encouraged to apply. They will emerge as well-respected young scientists ready to embark on strong careers in this rapidly growing field.

The project is underpinned by a large collaborative EPSRC Grant, which will drive the project aims primarily towards lasers for medical imaging. There are real opportunities to work closely with SPI lasers Ltd, a major manufacturer of fibre lasers based in Southampton and project partner on the grant, enabling experience to be gained of working with industry.

Please contact Prof. David Richardson or Dr Jonathan Price for any additional details.

Wide-band optical fibre amplifiers for the next generation of internet

Supervisor: Professor David Richardson
Co-supervisor: Dr Lin Xu

In collaboration with a world-leading industrial telecommunications equipment manufacturer, this PhD at the world-leading Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) will focus on exploiting novel fibre materials, structures and technologies to develop wide-band fibre amplifiers. Ensuring the key amplifier characteristics of high gain, flat spectral gain profile and low noise figure is paramount and will represent a major aspect of the project.

We are looking for applicants with a background in physics, material sciences or engineering to develop the technology needed to support the internet of the future.

The successful candidate will be an integral part of an ambitious, well-funded Programme with the potential for major global impact. Working alongside a world-leading research team in the ORC, you can expect professional mentoring throughout your time, leaving with the independence and skills to move you onto a successful career.

The amount of data transferred daily over the internet is increasing at a rate of 40% per annum and there is a continuous demand to increase the transmission capacity of optical communication networks. This has traditionally been done by improving the transmitter and receiver technology at the end of the fibre transmission line. However, this approach is beginning to run out of steam as this signalling technology is now close to fully optimised and the fundamental transmission capacity of the fibre transmission line, and in particular the bandwidth of the erbium doped fibre amplifiers (EDFAs) used to periodically boost signals degraded by signal propagation losses, is now a major limiting factor.

The EDFA is a University of Southampton invention from the mid-80’s and has been a huge engineering and commercial success but new optical amplifiers with a wider bandwidth are now desperately required.

Full tuition funding, plus, for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £18,000 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. www.orc.southampton.ac.uk/phd_funding. EU students with no external funding can apply for a small number of scholarships. Students from overseas with external funding are also encouraged to apply.

To discuss details of the project or arrange a visit, please contact Professor David Richardson FRS, FREng (djr@orc.soton.ac.uk) and Dr. Lin Xu (l.xu@soton.ac.uk).

Fibre laser based mid infrared source development

Supervisor: Professor David Richardson
Co-supervisor: Dr Lin Xu

The projects aim is to develop a ground-breaking new technology platform for the mid-IR and demonstrate the enabling capabilities provided by the platform in several important application areas below, with a focus on the life sciences.

We are looking for applicants with a background in physics, material sciences, or engineering, to develop the technology needed to enable a wide range of sensing applications in biology, medicine, environmental monitoring and manufacturing.

You will be developing high power short pulse fibre lasers operating at conventional near-IR wavelengths (e.g. 1 and 2µm) and converting the wavelength of the output light to the mid-IR wavelengths using nonlinear optical effects in specially engineered crystals, and/or optical fibres. You can expect professional mentoring, leaving with independence and skills to help you in a successful career.

Most gas molecules exhibit vibrations that lead to highly structured but characteristic light absorption spectra in the mid-infrared (mid-IR) regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. By measuring the absorption of light for gas samples as a function of the wavelength the presence and concentration of different gas species within a sample can be determined, enabling many sensing applications.

To exploit this sensing approach there is a requirement for laser sources operating in the mid-IR. These are difficult to realise using traditional laser materials and designs.

You will develop a range of mid-IR sources offering unprecedented levels of wavelength coverage and power within the mid-IR (wavelengths range from 2-15 μm where the “fingerprints” of most gases can be detected). You will target both high-power sources with a wide wavelength tuning range and a narrow spectral linewidth that can be used to probe individual gas absorption and broadband supercontinuum sources with ultrahigh spectral power densities used to record the full gas absorption section in one go without tuning.

Full tuition funding, plus, for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £18,000 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. www.orc.southampton.ac.uk/phd_funding. EU students with no external funding can apply for a number of scholarships. Students from overseas who have external funding can also apply.

For more details, contact Professor David Richardson FRS, FREng (djr@orc.soton.ac.uk) or Dr Lin Xu (l.xu@soton.ac.uk).

Development of novel fibre laser sources based on multicore fibre technology

Supervisor: Professor David Richardson
Co-supervisor: Dr Di Lin

Fibre lasers have emerged as the technology of choice for a wide range of industrial, medical and fundamental science applications. The aim of this project is to develop a revolutionary new generation of high pulse energy, high average power short pulse fibre lasers capable of directly generating pulses that are shaped in both time and space to suit a variety of specific end applications.

We are looking for applicants with a background in physics, material sciences, physics or engineering, to develop this revolutionary laser technology.

Collaborating closely with our academic and industrial partners to demonstrate the benefits of this new laser technology for applications in laser material processing and medical imaging, you will become an integral part of an ambitious, well-funded Programme with the potential for major global impact. You will receive professional mentoring throughout your time, and leave with the independence and skills to move you onto a successful career.

Our ultimate vision is to generate an “intelligent” laser capable of adapting its output to optimise the task it is being used for – be that cutting of metal sheets through to performing delicate eye surgery. This project will explore beam combination approaches that use multicore fibres (MCFs) rather than the conventional single core fibres used to date in most fibre laser systems.

Coherent beam combination in MCFs offers many advantages over competing beam combination approaches based on separate individual amplifiers. It provides an integrated multi-channel architecture that drastically reduces system complexity by decoupling component count from the channel count and improving environmental stability. It also provides a very high degree of freedom for tailoring the beam properties in terms of amplitude, phase, and polarisation state at the output target plane.

Full tuition funding, plus, for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £18,000 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. www.orc.southampton.ac.uk/phd_funding. EU students with no external funding can apply for a number of scholarships. Students from overseas who have secured external funding are also encouraged to apply.

New Optical Components and Optical Amplifiers Development for Future High Speed Internet

Supervisor: Professor David Richardson
Co-supervisor: Dr Yongmin Jung

This project will explore a new fibre technology concept capable of supporting far greater capacity by increasing the number of spatial channels sent through the fibre cross-section. Working in the world-leading Optoelectronics Research Centre, (ORC), the successful candidate will develop a new array of optical components and optical amplifiers to facilitate compact and practical new Space Division Multiplexing (SDM) systems targeting up to 100 spatial channels per fibre operation.

We are looking for applicants with a background in physics, material sciences or engineering, to develop the technology needed to support the internet of the future.

This PhD project is primarily experimental in nature and you will be working within an experienced team of world-leading researchers, within extensive and well equipped labs, and have the opportunity to engage with our industrial partners to achieve high impact outcomes from their work. The project is supported by generous funding from the EPSRC.

Optical fibre networks provide the backbone for the internet, with 99% of the world’s data traffic sent at some point over optical fibres. There are more than two billion kilometres of fibre installed across the globe to date with an extra 400 million kilometres added every year! However, the ultimate data carrying capacity of the fibres used in today’s networks, developed in the mid-70s, is now within sight in the laboratory and there are concerns that this will ultimately compromise the capacity, cost and ways that commercial networks are built at some point in the next 5-10 years.

Full tuition funding, plus, for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £18,000 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. www.orc.southampton.ac.uk/phd_funding. EU students with no external funding can contend for a small number of competitive scholarships. Students from overseas who have secured some external funding are also encouraged to apply.

To discuss details of the project or arrange a visit, please contact Professor David Richardson (djr@orc.soton.ac.uk) and Dr Yongmin Jung (ymj@orc.soton.ac.uk).  

Hollow Core Fibres for Mid-infrared Gas Sensing, Quantum Optics & Metrology

Supervisor: Dr Natalie Wheeler
Co-supervisors: Dr Lin Xu and Prof. David Richardson

This project focusses on exploiting novel hollow core fibres to make new mid-infrared devices. This would suit a candidate with an interest in a primarily experimental PhD, with an interest in optical fibres, light-matter interactions and fibre–based device development.

The mid-infrared spectral region represents a rapidly growing research area which is especially interesting for gas-light interactions as the strongest absorption features of many gas species lie in this region. Hollow core fibres are an excellent host for gas-light interactions and are also well-suited to operating at wavelengths where conventional solid fibres made from silica glass cannot transmit light, such as the mid-IR. Hollow core fibres are therefore excellent candidates for the next generation of mid-IR devices such as novel light sources, ultra-high sensitivity gas sensors and compact frequency references.

The successful student will work within a team of experienced researchers, within extensive and well equipped labs and will engage with our industrial partners to achieve high impact outcomes from their work. The project is supported by generous funding from the EPSRC and the Royal Society.

Glass Surface Interactions in Hollow Core Fibres

Supervisor: Dr Natalie Wheeler
Co-supervisors: Dr Yong Chen

We are looking for a new PhD student with a background in chemistry, materials science and/ or physics to join us to study the surface chemistry of thin glass membranes in hollow core fibres (HCFs). 

HCFs are an exciting development in optical fibre technology where light is guided in an air filled core. At the University of Southampton, we have a world-leading group, which designs, characterises and fabricates state-of-the-art HCFs and we recently reported a new world record low loss for this type of optical fibre. HCFs are now serious contenders for a variety of applications, including telecommunications.

Now the optical lifetime of these fibres is becoming critical for their successful deployment. The hollow core region is surrounded by a cladding structure formed from thin glass membranes. These membranes can have extreme dimensions, for example, having a width of only 30 nanometres but extending along the full fibre length (up to several kilometres) and therefore they present a novel and interesting platform for glass surface dynamics. We want to study the interactions between these surfaces and air (or other gas species) within the fibre.

In this project, the student will fabricate new HCFs, with a focus on understanding and quantifying the impact of different fabrication processes on the properties of the glass surfaces within the fibre and linking this to lifetime of the final fibre in various applications. Within this scope, the student will become an expert in both fabrication and characterisation of HCFs, while developing a high level of understanding of glass science. The successful student will work with experienced researchers, have access to a wide range of equipment and work with external partners to maximise the impact of their work.

A fully funded PhD position is available for UK applicants (with an enhanced stipend of £18,000 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.) EU students with no external funding can contend for a small number of competitive scholarships. Students from overseas who have secured some external funding are also encouraged to apply. www.orc.southampton.ac.uk/phd_funding.html

To discuss details of the project/ arrange a visit, please contact Dr. Natalie Wheeler

 

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