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.

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PhD Projects

Ultra-precision machining of photonics

Supervisors: James Gates Corin Gawith and Peter Smith

Ultra-precision machining of photonic components has revolutionised the production of optics, such as freeform lenses and mirrors. Modern ultra-precision stages and diamond tools allow bulk optics to be formed with nanometer surface roughness and tolerances. This project will develop tools and ultra-precision processes that are explicitly designed for photonics providing nanometre tolerances in a variety of materials, including glasses, semiconductors and nonlinear crystalline materials. This collaborative project will target areas such as telecommunications, waveguide-based optics, and the development of atom and ion trap systems for quantum computing and sensing.

Nonlinear photon sources for quantum technologies

Supervisors: Corin Gawith and Peter Smith

This research project aims to develop high power nonlinear optical waveguides as sources of photons for use in quantum imaging, quantum-secured telecomms, and quantum computing. With world-record results for periodically-poled lithium niobate (PPLN) waveguides and several products released via our spin-out company Covesion Ltd, this project will involve waveguide design, cleanroom fabrication, and optical (laser) testing of new PPLN waveguide formats, and close collaboration industrial end-users in various fields. The aim will be to develop quantum-enabling components, demonstrators and systems that expand and showcase our abilities.

Modulators and low-loss switching for Quantum Technology

Supervisors: Peter Smith and James Gates

The goal of this project is to create devices for the Quantum Internet. Using state-of-the-art fabrication facilities at Southampton, we seek excellent PhD candidates who wish to develop core components for interfacing quantum computers and quantum networks. Unlike optical Telecomms, where losses are tolerated and compensated by amplifiers, in the world of Quantum Technology, every photon is precious. So we are seeking to create new ultra-low-loss optical components which will reduce losses and allow us to develop large entangled quantum states. The project will be strongly engineering-based, with a focus on practical and manufacturable solutions to the problem of how to preserve photons and provide the unique functions required for the quantum internet.

Integrated microwave photonics

Supervisors: Peter Smith and James Gates

This PhD project considers the development of planar integrated photonic devices and systems for microwave/RF signal processing in the optical domain, such as a combination of directional couplers, Mach-Zehnder interferometers (MZI) and Bragg gratings, for use in microwave photonic systems. Integrated microelectronic circuits have penetrated every aspect of the field of signal processing, particularly in optical fibre telecommunication systems. Nevertheless, there is increasing exploration of all-optical signal processing due to its unprecedented large bandwidth and fast operating speed. One route uses integrated optical chips to realise photonic devices and systems for microwave/RF signal processing.

The research work is also going to be in collaboration with the academic and industry organisations in the Optics Valley of China in Wuhan, China. The goal of this project is to build monolithic integrated planar devices for use in the ultrawide bandwidth and ultrafast signal processing for microwave photonic systems. It will involve the design and manufacture of integrated planar components and devices using the bespoke fabrication facilities developed within our research group, including flame hydrolysis deposition, direct UV laser writing, and also cleanroom facilities.

Deep UV QPM materials

Supervisors: Corin Gawith and Peter Smith

Based on recently developed micromachining technologies - which have led to breakthroughs in power handling for nonlinear optics - we now wish to extend these approaches to materials for the deep UV spectral region. Using state-of-the-art physical machining, you will be creating sub-nanometre surfaces with nanometre precision to create new types of nonlinear materials to create efficient lasers down to <200nm wavelengths. These devices will be important in lithography, bio-detection, quantum science, ultrashort pulse physics and material processing. By combining novel fabrication approaches with well developed commercial materials, you will be expanding the area of engineered nonlinear optics deep into the ultra-violet.

The PhD programme

Our world-leading research centre is a hive of activity with over 200 staff and students working on cutting-edge research to provide innovative solutions for real life problems in manufacturing, communication technology, defence, health care, renewable energy and the environment.

We are looking for the photonics pioneers of the future to join our vibrant research team and work alongside our world-class researchers to make history. Our physics and materials science PhD programme offers a solid start to any career in optics and photonics, whether you are planning to stay in academia or work in industry.

Candidate Requirements: applications would be welcome from candidates holding good degrees (1st class, 2:1 honours or MSc) in physics, materials science, mechanical or electronic engineering. Experimental skills are essential. In addition to the standard EPSRC PhD studentship, this position includes an annual allowance to enable attendance at international conferences. This post is open to UK and EU citizens only, due to standard EPSRC eligibility requirements.

How to apply: to apply for this studentship please submit an application for a PhD in the Optoelectronics Research Centre to the University of Southampton including the fact that you wish to do a PhD within Prof. Peter Smith’s group. Please see the following address for more details:

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31st August 2021 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Duration: typically three and a half years (full-time)

Funding: full tuition plus, for UK students, an enhanced stipend of up to £18,000 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.

Start date: typically September


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