The University of Southampton

Brilliance competition... we have winners

Published: 12 June 2013

Our art and photography competition, The Brilliance of Light, celebrates the beautiful, novel and sometimes whimsical side of the technological advances that our research brings. 

We've had an amazing array of entries and our senior management team would like to extend their thanks to all those that took the trouble to enter. The judging was very difficult (but somebody had to do it!). Here are our winning entries:

First prize: "Mid-infrared Mach-Zehnder sensor"

"Mid-infrared Mach-Zehnder sensor", by Dr Goran Mashanovich 

The mid-infrared is a spectral region of tremendous scientific and technological interest. Spanning a wavelength range from 3 to 20 micrometers, it contains strong absorption signatures for a number of gases and molecules and hence photonic devices that operate in this region can be applied for a host of applications in environmental and bio-chemical sensing, industrial process control, point of care diagnostics (e.g. diabetes or cancer breath analysers), astronomy, and defense and security applications (e.g. toxic gas detection). 

There is a high demand for low cost, efficient and compact sensors that operate in this longer wavelength regime, and silicon is an ideal material platform for the aforementioned applications due its availability, cost and mature fabrication technology. 

The SEM picture shows the first mid-infrared sensor based on a Mach-Zehnder interferometer in silicon. It contains two arms and a difference in intensity/phase between the arms can be used for the detection of molecules that show strong absorption peaks in the mid-infrared. As very compact photonics circuits can be fabricated in silicon, the Mach-Zehnder arms can be made longer by incorporating compact spiral weveguides. The diameter of the two spirals in the picture is similar to the diameter of a telecommunication optical fibre but the length can be several centimeters, thus significantly increasing the sensitivity of measurements. 

Authors: Dr Ali Z Khokhar, Mr Milos Nedeljkovic and Dr Goran Mashanovich.

This work has been funded by the Royal Society through Goran Mashanovich’s Royal Society Research Fellowship “Mid-Infrared Silicon Photonics”. 

Second prize: "Quantum superconducting metamaterial"

"Quantum superconducting metamaterial, a profile image", by Vassili Savinov

Switching one light beam with another light beam with only a few quanta of energy is the ultimate goal of photonics, achieving which will open new opportunities for energy efficient signal handling and quantum information processing. 

Researchers at Southampton University Optoelectronics Research Centre introduced a new quantum superconducting metamaterial which exploits the magnetic flux quantization for switching radiation in terahertz band of frequencies. The metamaterial was manufactured from a high-temperature superconductor. 

The result is published in: Flux exclusion superconducting quantum metamaterial: towards quantum-level switching, Nature: Scientific Reports. 2, 450 (2012) 

Authors: V. Savinov, A. Tsiatmas, A. R. Buckingham, V. A. Fedotov, P. A. J. de Groot and N. I. Zheludev. 

Third prize: "Changing optical properties of material at will: Reconfigurable photonic metamaterial"

"Changing optical properties of material at will: Reconfigurable photonic metamaterial", SEM image by Bruce Ou. 

Thanks to nanotechnology we should not anymore depend only on natural materials; we can now engineer optical properties and change them at will. 

Researchers at Southampton University Optoelectronics Research Centre and Centre for disruptive Photonic Technologies, NTU Singapore developed a new type of artificial metamaterial which can actuated by electrostatic forces arising from the application of only a few volts to its nanoscale building blocks—the plasmonic metamolecules—that are supported by pairs of parallel strings cut from a flexible semiconductor membrane of nanoscale thickness. These strings, of picogram mass, can be driven synchronously to megahertz frequencies to electromechanically reconfigure the metamolecules and dramatically change the transmission and reflection spectra of the metamaterial. 

The result is published in: An electromechanically reconfigurable plasmonic metamaterial operating in the near-infrared

Authors: J. Y. Ou, E. Plum, J. Zhang, and N. I. Zheludev Nature Nanotech. 8, 252-255 (2013) 


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