The University of Southampton

Optical Fibre Sensors and Devices

Led by: Professor Gilberto Brambilla

Group webpage

All PhD Projects:

  • Entry Requirements: A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent) in physics or a related discipline. 
  • Funding: Full tuition plus, for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £20,000 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. Limited funding for international applicants may be available. Overseas students who have secured or are seeking external funding are also welcome to apply.
  • How to apply: Applications should be made online
  • Closing date: Applications are accepted throughout the year and several start dates throughout the year are possible. Applications for the typical Sept./Oct. 2023 start should be received no later than 31 August 2023.


PhD Projects:

Artificial Optical Nervous System

Supervisory team: Gilberto Brambilla,  Ali Masoudi 

The study of the mechanical properties of any large, complex structures such as a space launch vehicle or Earth’s crust relies on a large array of sophisticated and, often, expensive sensors. Constrained by budget, the number of sensing nodes deployed in such projects often does not exceed a few hundred, limiting the scale and scope of these studies. The aim of this project is to establish a new class of sensing system that is capable of mapping strain distribution at thousands of points using a single strand of optical fibre thinner than a human hair. When placed on or inside a structure such as the airframe of an aircraft, optical fibres act as artificial nerves, transmitting valuable information about the condition of the structure to the interrogating unit that acts as a brain.

The new system, which will be called High-resolution Ultra-fast Distributed Sensor (HUDS), allows static and dynamic strain measurement at +50,000 sensing points with 2 cm spatial resolution and at a sampling rate as high as 100,000 samples per second at each sensing point.  The ability of HUDS to provide a high-resolution map of strain distribution at tens of thousands of points along a fibre opens up a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines such as Civil Engineering, Seismology, Mechanical Engineering, Ship Sciences, and High-energy Particle Physics, to name a few.


Intelligent optical sensing

Supervisory Team: Rand Ismaeel, Martynas Beresna, Christopher Holmes

Artificial intelligence is taking an ever-increasing presence in our daily live. Most frequent occurrence is probably related to visual data analysis such as face recognition. Can similar data processing algorithms be used to develop digital sensors that can detect organic substances to understand what role oceans take in global warming? Or monitor performance of an aircraft made of composite materials to reduce CO2 emissions? 

In this PhD project, you will combine optical sensing with AI based algorithms to develop next generation sensing systems. The research work will introduce you to modern manufacturing and characterization techniques used in developing optical devices and composite materials, computational modelling of photonic systems. The project has strong commercial potential and we have industrial collaborations with local start-ups and global corporations allowing impact of your research to be seen in real life applications. 

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