The University of Southampton

Photonic, Electronic and Plasmonic Microstructured Optical Fibres

Advanced technological applications demand high performance devices, which in turn require exceptional materials. Focussing on the fundamental materials research and development necessary to move this innovation beyond the laboratory to next-generation photonic devices and systems the group have already developed and patented an innovative technique towards purely fibre based systems. 

A fibre based system is preferable as it avoids the use of heterogeneous, discrete optoelectronic components to transform in-fibre photonic signals to chip-based electronic signals which is complex and high in cost. 

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: For UK students, tuition fees and a stipend at the UKRI rate plus £2,000 ORC enhancement tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years (totalling around £21,000 for 2024/25, rising annually). EU and Horizon Europe students are eligible for scholarships. CSC students are eligible for fee waivers. Funding for other international applicants is very limited and highly competitive. Overseas students who have secured or are seeking external funding are welcome to apply.
  • How to apply: Applications should be made online
  • Closing date: Applications are accepted throughout the year. The start date will typically be late September, but other dates are possible.


PhD Projects:

Photoreactor modelling, design and fabrication

Supervisory team: Dr Pier Sazio (ZI/ORC), Dr Lindsay Armstrong (Engineering)

A PhD position is available as part of a new Centre of Excellence called Light and Electrochemical Activated Processes for Chemical Industries (LEAP). The intention of LEAP is to coordinate the University of Southampton’s  istinctive strengths in photonic materials and chemistry to tackle the challenge of decarbonising the chemical industry. The initiative brings together academics from Chemistry, Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and the Zepler Institute that will improve our fundamental understanding of these complex processes and develop engineered solutions that can be applied at scale. 

As we transition towards a net-zero carbon future, there is a need to make chemical transformations more efficient. Thermally controlled processes that are ubiquitous in the chemical industry have an inherent inefficiency,  regardless of how well macroscopic heat management demands are controlled. Photo/electrochemical technologies – reactions that are driven by light or directly by electricity - represent an alternative approach to produce both commodity and fine chemicals that have the potential to be significantly more efficient.

Photocatalysis in particular represents a unique opportunity to efficiently transform free solar photons into a versatile form of ‘chemical energy’ that can be used for energy storage (e.g. maritime transportation, grid-energy storage) or the production of commodity chemicals (e.g. ammonia, methanol). This studentship project builds on our successful recent development of photocatalytic reactors using optical fibre technologies (e.g. ACS Photonics, 2020, 7, 714-722). Specifically, we will leverage the highly advanced and scalable photonics technologies developed at the Zepler Institute in order to precisely engineer photonic states coupled with optimal structuring and management of light with photocatalysts inside our state of the art reactor designs. This will require significant numerical simulation effort to guide experimental fabrication alongside in-depth optical characterization and optimisation.  

This multifaceted project targets the development of an all-in-one photoreactor described using multi-phase chemical models to incorporate the kinetics of photocatalysts, reactant flow and photon behaviour. It is thus supported by a highly multidisciplinary team with expertise in photonic devices (Dr Pier Sazio) and modelling alongside material deposition (Dr Geoff Hyett), photocatalyst design and development (Dr Matt Potter, University of Bath) and multi-phase chemical models (Dr. Lindsay Armstrong) to realise these advanced systems.


AI directed laser synthesis, patterning and manufacture of 2D TMDC nanodevices

Supervisory team: Dr Pier SazioDr Nikitas PapasimakisDr Ioannis Zeimpekis

Two-dimensional (2D) materials have attracted global interest for atomically thin next-generation electronic and optoelectronic devices, opening up exciting opportunities for technological applications at the monolayer limit. Their extraordinary properties could revolutionise areas ranging from printed electronics to life sciences, imaging and quantum technologies to name just a few. However, the synthesis of these materials is often complex and capital intensive, relying mainly on vacuum based processing tools. In this PhD studentship, the candidate will contribute to the development of a facile, low cost system exploiting direct laser printing of 2D semiconductor based nanodevices. This new technology allows film patterning on various substrates, including flexible and curved, all processed under room temperature ambient conditions with instant spectroscopic feedback, making it highly suitable for neural network driven, scalable rapid prototyping and additive manufacture.

This AI driven project would thus be suitable for a highly motivated candidate with a strong physics/materials/engineering related background and programming abilities to develop highly transferable skills in cleanroom sample fabrication and electronic/photonic device characterisation, laser materials processing, numerical simulations and machine learning with input from industry partners and working with leading academic experts.


Hollow core optical fibres embedded with 2D materials

Supervisory team: Dr Pier SazioDr Ioannis Zeimpekis

Hollow core optical fibre waveguide geometries are becoming increasingly relevant to modern telecommunications systems, an exemplar of which is the anti-resonant fibre (ARF) structure, which can guide light in the air core using a variety of cladding architectures. Intriguingly, the high internal surface area presented by this waveguide geometry offers an ideal material deposition template for strong light-matter interaction and to this end, we have developed world leading knowledge and expertise in deposition technologies that allow a wide variety of functional materials such as semiconductors and metals to be embedded within these air-silica structures. 

More recently, we have explored the extraordinary properties of atomically thin two-dimensional (2D) materials within ARF structures, opening up exciting opportunities for next-generation photonic and optoelectronic devices and applications at the monolayer limit. In this PhD studentship, the candidate will further develop this novel composite material ARF (CM-ARF) technology, spanning the multidisciplinary remit between cleanroom based, 2D materials fibre integration technology for the highly innovative CM-ARF platform, with applications in active photon management and light processing functions. Analysis of device properties will be performed in our fully equipped characterization laboratories, complemented by numerical simulation studies to complete the development cycle. 

This photonic device technology and materials science driven project would thus be suitable for a highly motivated candidate with a strong physics/materials/engineering related background and programming abilities to develop highly transferable skills in cleanroom sample fabrication and electronic/photonic device characterisation, numerical simulations working with leading academic experts.


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