The University of Southampton

Optical Engineering and Quantum Photonics PhD Projects

The Optical Engineering and Quantum Photonics Group is led by Professor Peter Smith.

Our team specialises in the development and manufacture of novel optoelectronic devices for applications in quantum technology, integrated optical sensors and laser optics. Working closely with two University spin-outs (Stratophase and Covesion), we aim to develop advanced functionality devices by modifying and patterning standard optoelectronic materials.

Visit our research group page

Optical-based condition monitoring of rotorcraft (GE Aviation)

GE Aviation is a world-leading provider ofcommercial, military and business aircraft.  The company’s recent direction has moved beyond traditional services into providing intelligent monitoring capability. This includes pioneering digital twin technology, which are virtual replicas of physical assets such as aircraft. Through use of digital twins faults can be anticipated and effective maintenance scheduled accordingly. This reduces aircraft downtime and will allow future transportation networks to be seamless. Comprehensive through life monitoring is an important enabler for effective digital twins. The more information that can be acquired through monitoring the more accurate the predictive assessments.

Optical fibre sensors offer huge potential for intelligent monitoring, as they have an immunity to electromagnetic interference, are lightweight and have a small cross-sectional footprint, they can survive temperatures in excess of 400oC and use materials that are chemically inert and non-conductive. This means that they can collect data-rich information in adverse environments. Permitting more comprehensive digital twin systems.

This PhD studentship will provide an industry relevant skill set to the PhD candidate and placement experience within a large aviation company, GE Aviation (an operating group of General Electric). The research sits on the forefront of current developments in intelligent monitoring and uniquely combines key strengths at Southampton, namely Photonics, Tribology and Cyber-physical Systems.

The studentship shall pioneer networked optical sensors to monitor rotorcraft gearboxes. The core technology shall be cantered on optical fibre segmented interferometry (OFSI) and spectral multiplexed Bragg gratings. Developments shall target vibration and thermal mapping of the outer casing of a gearbox, to condition monitor the complex planetary gear system within.

Applications would be welcome from candidates holding good degrees (1st class, 2:1 honours – BSc or MSc) in physics, materials science, mechanical or electronic engineering. Experimental skills are essential.

This post is open to UK and EU citizens only, due to standard EPSRC eligibility requirements. Additional security checks are also required by studentship sponsor GE Aviation.

To find out more and register your interest please email Paula Smith

Up-conversion detectors based on PPLN waveguides (Miniaturising components for imaging in low light)

This project aims to develop a new class of quantum optical detectors for imaging in low-light environments, such as LIDAR for driverless cars and environmental monitoring of greenhouse gases. This will be achieved by up-converting photons from the 2-5 micron region to shorter wavelengths enabling detection by standard silicon based photodiodes and cameras. The project will utilise our proprietary technology in periodically poled lithium niobate (PPLN) with specific objectives:

  • to develop optical systems for up-conversion and efficient measurement of single photons
  • to build modules for operation with single mode fibres using PPLN waveguides
  • to find ways to miniaturise the pump laser requirements for low Size, Weight, and Power (SWAP) aiming at <10W power consumption

The project will be laboratory focused, working with lasers and optical systems and our extensive cleanroom and machining facilities. The PhD is funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), as part of the UK’s Quantum Technology programme. As such the student will also benefit from regular interaction and site visits with Dstl staff

Scalable heralded single-photon sources

The single-photon source is the fundamental building block for quantum technologies in photonics, particularly for quantum computing. Currently, no one can run more than a handful of such sources at a time, and their efficiency is limited. In collaboration with the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, this project aims to tackle that problem.

It is an open question how to scale up from 3-4 sources to 20, or even 100.

There are several possible approaches to the problem possible in a planar waveguide chip, where we currently make state-of-the-art sources, which must be evaluated for feasibility and performance. The leading contenders will then be designed, fabricated, and evaluated in practice over the course of the PhD project.

The project will involve theoretical calculations, computer models, device specifications, and device fabrication in the cleanroom, leading to a broad base of skills upon completion. Students with strong background in any of these areas would be suitable candidates for the position.

Integrated optical elements for miniaturised atom traps 

Working as part of the UK Quantum technology hub in Sensors and Metrology led by Birmingham University, this project aims to build optical components for cold atom chips for miniaturised atom traps. Planar waveguide technology will be used to create miniature (1 inch cube size) traps that will find applications for magnetic and gravity sensing, as precision accelerometers and for network timing in future telecomm networks.

This project will involve development of glass on silicon waveguide components to couple light into magneto-optical atom traps and ion traps. Working closely with partners in Southampton Physics Dept, Sussex University and Oxford University the studentship will work on some of the most exciting challenges in miniaturisation of this important technology for real world applications.

With a background in physics, electronics, material science or engineering successful candidates will be enthusiastic to work in a multi-disciplinary team with top quality collaborators across the UK and worldwide. The work will involve cleanroom fabrication, optical design, testing, modelling and theoretical work.






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