The University of Southampton

Integrated Photonic Devices

The Integrated Photonic Devices Group, led by Professor James Wilkinson, was established in early 1990 to meet the demand for optical device functions of increasing complexity and parallelism. 

Planar photonic devices are exploited in applications as diverse as telecommunications, tuneable and short-pulse miniature laser light sources, diagnostics in medicine, the environment and food processing, and early-warning sensors for biological agents. 

We exploit surface science, waveguide engineering, laser physics and microstructure technology to realise robust mass-producible integrated optical circuits, to further the monolithic integration of diverse devices, and to develop novel materials processing for optoelectronic devices. 

Group webpage

PhD Projects:

Next generation optical sensors for trace toxic gas detection

Supervisor: James Wilkinson 
Co-Supervisor: Senthil Ganapathy

Continuous monitoring and detection of accidental leakage of toxic gases produced by industries, especially in developing countries, requires highly sensitive detection systems with detection limits of the order of parts per billion (PPB). Optical microresonators in which light recirculates about one million times and interrogates the environment every round-trip potentially allows the detection even of single molecules.

This project will exploit novel hybrid fiberised polymer microresonators on tapered silica optical fibres. The polymer will be doped with selective supra-molecular compounds to entrap specific toxic gases, giving the device both high sensitivity and very high specificity for analyte gases. The resonance wavelength shift on interaction with entrapped gas molecules will provide a sensitive measure of the number of molecules entrapped. Complementary sensing techniques such as molecular fingerprint detection of trace toxic gases using highly sensitive evanescent field Mid-IR spectroscopy utilising waveguides with caged supra-molecular compounds doped polymer layer as superstrates will also be investigated.

All-Optical Signal Processing on Silicon

Supervisor: James Wilkinson 
Co-Supervisor: Senthil Ganapathy

There is increasing interest in low-cost photonic circuits for mass-market applications such as fibre-to-the-home. Integrated circuit technology has enabled extraordinary complexity at low cost for electronic systems and has the potential to provide a revolution in mass-manufacture for all-optical systems. For this dream to be realised, materials and fabrication processes suitable for advanced photonic applications must be devised. All-optical processing requires high third-order nonlinearity (power dependent refractive index) combined with tight confinement of light, in photonic circuits. Silicon itself has problems with nonlinear absorption in the appropriate power and wavelength regime, but heavy metal oxides, such as Ta2O5 and Nb2O5 which can be integrated with silicon, are attractive for a wide range of optical functions, especially all-optical switching and gain.

In this project we will explore these materials for advanced device functionality exploiting nonlinearity and electro-optic control.

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