The University of Southampton

Optical Microfibre Devices and Sensors

Led by: Professor Gilberto Brambillo

Group webpage

PhD Projects:

Pushing the limits of acoustic sensing with optical fibres

Supervisor: Professor Gilberto Brambilla
Dr Ali Masoudi and Dr Giuseppe Marra

We have an exciting opportunity for an enthusiastic and proactive PhD student to work on cutting-edge technology in the world of fibre optics and ultra-precise measurements.

Two world-class laboratories, the Optoelectronics Research Centre and the National Physical Laboratory are joining forces to develop the next generation of distributed sensing using optical fibre links.
Acoustic sensing is becoming a revolutionary tool in the field of geophysical analysis and ORC has been actively pushing the research in this field. NPL has recently demonstrated the detection of earthquakes with epicentre as far as 18,500 km using optical sensing on fibre links (Science).
We are now looking at pushing the limits of acoustic sensing by combining the ORC’s world-leading expertise in optical fibres and NPL’s state-of-the-art interferometric technology. This will have applications in a number of fields, from detecting environmental noise to seismic activity. We are also looking at demonstrating for the first time the use of distributed acoustic sensing technique for the comparison of atomic clocks over fibre. The student will be involved in experiments on installed fibre networks.
The PhD student will be researching on the source of current limitations and develop solutions to overcome them and will be testing these solutions in the laboratory. We expect the student to be primarily based at ORC, but also they will be spending some time at NPL during coordinated experiments. He/she will have the opportunity to interact with junior and senior scientists at both ORC and NPL and will be exposed to the amazing science that takes place at both institutions.
We welcome applications from candidates with a background in electronics, physics and engineering.  We are looking for enthusiastic people applicants that are keen to join a vibrant environment and want to make a difference.

Applied Photonic Technologies for Deep Ocean Life Monitoring

Supervisor: Professor Gilberto Brambilla
Dr Rand Ismaeel and Dr Timothy Lee

This unique PhD project aims to develop a new class of marine sensors based on cutting edge photonics research. In a collaboration between the ORC and the National Oceanography Centre, we will study the detection of various molecules ranging from dissolved gases and hydrocarbons, to DNA and subsea bio cells.  Such technology has the potential to revolutionise the marine industry with compact and highly sensitive optical detectors. Real-life application of these devices can be implemented to explore and understand the evolution mechanism of unknown sub-sea species through monitoring its DNA structures. Deep ocean oil and gas exploration will also be studied through integrating photonics sensors with autonomous sea vehicles.

The successful candidate will be based at the ORC but will also have the opportunity to conduct experiments at the NOC world-class facilities.

Devices based on resonant optical fibre structures will be the focus of these sensors, and femtosecond laser inscribed devices will also be investigated through the lifetime of the project.

A fully funded PhD place on this project is available for eligible UK applicants supported by NERC, EPSRC Studentship.  The studentship comes with a stipend of up to £18,000 (tax-free) with fees paid.

For any further information or informal discussion, please contact Dr Rand Ismaeel, Optical Fibre Sensor Research Group, by emailing:

Artificial Nervous System: Distributed Optical Fibre Sensing Systems and their Applications in Structural Integrity Analysis

Supervisor: Professor Gilberto Brambilla
Co-Supervisor: Dr Ali Masoudi

This PhD project aims to open new frontiers in the field of structural health monitoring by designing and developing a new class high resolution distributed optical fibre sensors. Such sensors use an optical fibre to measure physical quantities such as temperature, strain, and vibrations at tens of thousands individual points along the fibre. Hence, by integrating an optical fibre inside any structure, crucial physical properties of such structure can be monitored, and any anomaly can be quickly detected. In other words, the optical fibre plays the role of a nervous system of that structure.

Such technology has the potential to yield a wealth of new applications in areas such as structural health monitoring (SHM) in aircrafts, ships, civil structures, performance analysis of race cars designed for Formula One competition, and medical applications, to name just a few.

A fully funded PhD place on this project is available for Eligible UK applicants supported by an EPSRC Studentship.  The project will involve close collaboration with the institute of sound and vibration research (ISVR), one of the world’s renowned research institute for its contributions to reducing noise and vibration in engineering applications such as rail and aircraft. The studentship comes with a stipend of up to £18,000 (tax-free) and with fees paid.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Ali Masoudi, Distributed Optical Fibre Sensor Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 4531.

fs writing in silica and polymer fibres

Supervisor: Professor Gilberto Brambilla
Co-Supervisor: Dr Martynas Beresna

Ultrafast lasers allow for the direct optical writing and patterning of waveguides and nanostructures in three dimensions, to provide entirely new functionalities. In this project, integrated refractive index structures will be written into transparent inorganic glasses or polymers using femtosecond lasers. Miniaturised integrated optical circuits and sensors will be formed within optical fibres and planar substrates. The effect of wavelength, pulse duration, polarization, pulse energy and beam shape will be investigated to optimise the guiding effect in fibres, or the scattering efficiency in planar waveguides. Applications to sensing, communications, metrology and security will be investigated.

Advanced imaging and sensing via artificial scattering media

Supervisor: Professor Gilberto Brambilla
Co-Supervisor: Dr Martynas Beresna

Optical scattering is usually associated with information parsing. Looking through the frosted glass or in fog, you can see the light, but you cannot see the contours of the objects, their colour or their other characteristics. The higher the scattering, the less information is available. The scattering of biological tissues does not allow one to look inside of the human body. Therefore, significant research efforts is being dedicated to eliminate the impact of scattering.

However, this research project is going in the opposite direction and will try to answer the question of whether the scattering medium can be used to see more.

While scattering at first glance brings chaos, in reality, it simply directs each photon of light in a unique path that depends on the wavelength and direction of the photon. Thus, the scattering medium can be used to spatially distribute spectral signal. Our group has already demonstrated how an ultra-small and cheap high-resolution spectrometer can be created using a specially designed scattering chip. The chip produces a speckle pattern, which is unique for each wavelength of light, i.e. each wavelength has its unique fingerprint.

The next step is to expand the application of scattering chips and demonstrate sensitive chemical and acoustic sensors or specialized imaging systems.

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