The University of Southampton

Microstructured Optical Fibres

This group is part of the Advanced Fibre Technologies & Applications Group led by Professor David J Richardson.

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Laser Guided Particles in Hollow Core Fibres

Supervisor: Professor David Richardson

Co-supervisors: Professor Francesco Poletti and Dr Hans Christian Mulvad

In this project, radiation pressure will be explored to levitate and guide particles within hollow core fibres (HCFs), aiming at new opportunities in remote sensing and hypervelocity particle acceleration.

The trapping and guidance of microscopic particles using the radiation pressure of light has been well known since the pioneering work of A. Ashkin in the 1970’s, which has led to several important applications including optical tweezers in biology. In free space, the guiding range is typically limited to micrometre length scales due the divergence of the trapping beam. In HCFs on the other hand, the laser beam remains tightly confined within the hollow core, and with recent progress in developing record-low loss HCFs at the ORC, it has become possible to guide and precisely position microscopic particles within kilometre-long fibres. This will allow the candidate to demonstrate “flying particle sensors” enabling the remote sensing of physical quantities such as electromagnetic fields or ionising radiation, e.g. in a radioactive environment [1]. Particle acceleration is another research direction in this project, combining the radiation pressure from high-power lasers and the long HCF acceleration lengths to potentially achieve hypervelocity particle propulsion.

The project will be mainly experimental in nature, but will also include some numerical modelling to support the work. The project work will take place across several research groups, covering high-power lasers and hollow-core fibre fabrication, allowing the candidate to collaborate with experienced researchers in both fields to reach the project objectives.

For more details, please contact Professor David Richardson, Professor Francesco Poletti or Dr Hans Christian Mulvad.

[1] Bykov, D., Schmidt, O., Euser, T. et al. Flying particle sensors in hollow-core photonic crystal fibre. Nature Photon 9, 461–465 (2015).

High-Power Laser Transmission in Hollow Core Fibres and Applications

Supervisor: Professor David Richardson

Co-supervisors: Professor Francesco Poletti and Dr Hans Christian Mulvad

This project will explore the limits and opportunities in high-power laser transmission enabled by state-of-the-art hollow core fibres (HCFs).  The project will aim at setting new standards for industrial laser delivery in terms of power level and propagation distance. It will also explore development of novel, energy-efficient laser sources based on gas-filled HCFs.

Recent years have seen remarkable progress in the development of hollow core fibres (HCFs), whose performance is now surpassing traditional glass fibres on several key parameters, as demonstrated by the ORC. Not only can HCFs transmit extreme laser power levels beyond the fundamental damage threshold of glass, but they can also achieve even lower propagation loss and thus longer transmission distances relative to established glass fibres [1]. This has enabled ORC researchers to demonstrate record 1 kW laser power delivery over 1 km HCF. In this project, the candidate will build on this work, which may lead to novel applications in both industrial laser processing, underground drilling, and other areas.  The access to low-loss HCFs will also enable the candidate to explore non-linear interactions between high intensity laser light and various gas species over unprecedented long ranges, potentially leading to novel, energy-efficient laser sources.

The candidate will work in a state-of-the-art laboratory equipped with industrial laser sources. The project will be mainly experimental, but may also include numerical modelling to support the objectives.  The candidate will benefit from the collaboration with researchers across several research groups, covering laser development and hollow-core fibre fabrication.

For more details, please contact Professor David Richardson, Professor Francesco Poletti or Dr Hans Christian Mulvad.

[1] Sakr, H., Chen, Y., Jasion, G.T. et al. Hollow core optical fibres with comparable attenuation to silica fibres between 600 and 1100 nm. Nat Commun 11, 6030 (2020).

Optical Fibre 2.0

Supervisor: Professor Francesco Poletti 
Co-Supervisors: Professor David Richardson, Dr John Hayes, Dr Tom Bradley, Dr Eric Numkam, Dr Greg Jasion

Fibre optics has revolutionised telecommunications, enabled the widespread diffusion of the internet and profoundly impacted industrial manufacturing, metrology, medical endoscopy and structural sensing, to name but a few. In many applications however, fibres are now being operated very close to fundamental physical limits of the glass that forms their core. For optical fibres to keep up with the 40% annual growth in global data traffic and with the 60% annual raise in power emitted by lasers, a transformative new technological step is required. Air guiding hollow core fibres – for which the group has a world-leading reputation - can provide a natural solution to help increasing the information capacity and power delivery capability of optical fibres.

We are looking for bright and motivated PhD students with a background in physics/engineering/material science and an interest in lasers, glass science and optics to embark on a very ambitious project, aiming to address these global challenges by developing the ‘ultimate’ hollow core optical fibre.

As part of a well-funded, prestigious European project, a number of PhD positions are available, where working alongside experienced researchers in a fast-paced and stimulating environment, students will have the opportunity to contribute to the development of a radically new form of optical fibre with the potential to guide light with record low loss at the speed of light in vacuum, and to transmit it undistorted, in a single transversal mode, at peak intensities that would destroy any conventional glass fibre. This could represent the future of data transmission and laser power delivery, and enable futuristic new applications in, for example, laser driven particle acceleration or ultraprecise long distance transfer of timing signals and optical frequencies.

PhD projects are available in the areas of:

1. Advanced electromagnetics and fluid dynamics modelling of this radically new form of fibre; 
2. Novel fabrication and characterization techniques for fibres with revolutionary optical properties, in various glasses and/or polymers compositions; 
3. Innovative glass preparation and novel preform fabrication methods; 
4. Application of these novel fibres in forward-looking datacoms/optical communications networks, in high power laser delivery for machining and scientific applications, and for biomedical and mid-infrared sensing (in collaboration with other academic groups worldwide and with industrial partners supporting the project, which include Nokia Bell Labs, the UK National Physical Laboratory and SPI lasers)

The students will have the opportunity to develop a wide range of highly employable skills, including fibre fabrication and characterization expertise, advanced numerical modelling skills, and photonics related material science know-how, while acquiring application-specific knowledge and interacting with a wide network of world-leading experts.

Fabrication and Applications of Hollow Core Fibres

Supervisor: Professor Francesco Poletti
Co-supervisor: Dr Natalie Wheeler, Professor Radan Slavik

Hollow core microstructured fibres represent one of the most exciting developments in fibre technology in recent years; in these fibres >99% of the guided light travels in air, enabling optical properties, such as ultra-low non-linearity and ultimate low latency, that cannot be achieved in conventional fibres.

In this project, we will develop novel fabrication techniques for this radically new form of fibre with a view to extend the range of possible fibre geometries (and hence the range of optical properties) and to improve the loss and precision with which these fibres can be made. This work will be primarily based in our state-of-the-art cleanroom. The fabricated fibres will be used for a wide range of applications including high power laser delivery, gas sensing and mid-infrared transmission, which will provide opportunities to collaborate with both internal and external partners.

The successful student will develop a wide range of skills including fibre fabrication and characterization, while acquiring application specific knowledge and interacting with a diverse network of people and working closely with other members of the Microstructured Optical Fibre group.

Low-cost, high performance optical fibres for short-reach interfaces

Supervisor: Professor Francesco Poletti
Co-supervisor: Dr Tom Bradley

The demand for high resolution and high frame rate face-to-face communication and high definition 4K/8K television requires wave-guided communication channels with ultra-high data transmission rate. Standard electronics cables like HDMI interfaces cannot keep up with such a steady increase in bandwidth demand, and low-cost high-performing optical fibres will need to be developed for this purpose. In this project we will investigate the fabrication of potential candidate fibres based on glasses and polymers, arranged on a novel architecture pioneered within the group.

The student will learn and develop advanced simulation tools to design and optimise the fibres, and a range of fibre fabrication techniques to produce them. They will work with different materials and characterisation tools in a vibrant and stimulating environment. If successful, the project has the potential to impact an important sector in the short reach data transmission consumer electronics, where volumes of billions of cables are manufactured each year.

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