The University of Southampton

Silicon Photonics PhD Projects

Liquid chromatography for clinical silicon photonics

Supervisor: Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC)

Co-Supervisors: Dr David Rowe (ORC) and Dr Sam Thompson (Chemistry)

This PhD project aims to develop a new class of sensors for clinical diagnostics based on cutting-edge silicon photonics research. Adding the capability for chromatography to our existing sensors for mid-infrared absorption spectroscopy will enable more powerful data extraction. This will provide more information for machine learning to improve the accuracy of clinical decision-making.

The project will explore medical applications for this technique with our partners at University Hospital Southampton (UHS). One example is liquid biopsy for cancer diagnostics: we hypothesise this method will offer improved discrimination between cancerous and non-cancerous blood samples without the need for a surgical biopsy.

You will join a larger team working on clinical and oceanic applications of silicon photonics based in the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics (ZIPN) at the University of Southampton (UoS). This is a multidisciplinary and inclusive community that includes collaborators from Chemistry and Medicine at UoS, the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility at UHS, the National Oceanography Centre Southampton and Physics at the University of York.

The successful candidate will study the detection of biomarkers by designing, fabricating and testing sensors for monitoring their unique spectral absorption fingerprints in order to understand the composition of human blood samples. You will also develop microfluidic chromatography for integration with the photonic sensors to obtain further proteomic and lipidomic information from the same samples. You will be based in ZIPN, where the chromatography and silicon photonics chips will be fabricated in state-of-the-art cleanrooms, and will conduct experiments in both UoS laser laboratories and UHS clinical laboratories.  There will be opportunity for you to work with clinicians to define how the sensors are used to maximise the medical utility and societal impact.

Mid-infrared photodetectors for medical and environmental sensors

Supervisor: Professor Goran Mashanovich

Co-Supervisors: Dr Milos Nedeljkovic and Professor Graham Reed

Silicon Photonics is set to become a key solution for miniaturised optical sensing in the mid-infrared wavelength range. In the mid-infrared molecules have strong absorption fingerprints, enabling specific and sensitive detection of many substances. Integrating whole photonic systems onto silicon chips would enable high performance optical sensors that could be mass-manufactured, benefitting a plethora of new applications.

The successful applicant would join a world leading Silicon Photonics research group of 40 postdocs and PhD students, and would work in close cooperation with the new EPSRC funded £5.8 million programme grant “MISSION” (Mid- Infrared Silicon Photonic Sensors for Healthcare and Environmental Monitoring), which involves several UK and international academic, clinical, and industrial partners, and seeks to develop sensors for 1) Therapeutic drug monitoring in patients’ blood, 2) Rapid cancer diagnosis from blood samples, and 3) Ocean monitoring (CO2, CH4, N2O detection).

A crucial enabling component for these sensors will be waveguide integrated photodetectors that can convert optical signals into electronic ones. At the ORC we have recently demonstrated two novel kinds of waveguide integrated photodetectors for mid-IR wavelengths: Ge defect detectors with high responsivity and Gbit/s operating speeds, and bolometers that can be designed to work at any wavelength and be fabricated at low cost. We are looking for a candidate to build on these first demonstrations by extending their operation to new wavelengths, increase their responsivity, and to explore their use by integrating them into photonic integrated circuits for sensing.

The work would involve opto-electronic simulation and design, device fabrication in our world class academic cleanroom complex, and characterisation in our state-of-the-art photonics laboratories. Experience in electronics, photonics, physics, or materials science is desirable.

Silicon Photonics for methane emissions reduction

Supervisor: Dr Milos Nedeljkovic (ORC)

Co-Supervisors: Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC) and Professor Matthew Mowlem (NOC)

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas whose emissions have caused about 30% of global heating to date. At COP-26 a multinational alliance of 105 countries pledged to cut their methane emissions by 30% in the next decade, because it is thought to be the most effective way to reduce near-term global warming. One of the most important levers for doing so will be to reduce natural gas leakage from fossil fuel production infrastructure, but to achieve this new low-cost technologies for immediately detecting the leaks will be needed.

The aim of this project will be to develop photonic integrated circuits for methane sensing, operating at mid-infrared wavelengths where the gas strongly absorbs light. It will involve 1) evaluating photonic circuit architectures for different sensing scenarios, 2) designing electro-optic devices and circuits through simulation, 3) fabricating them in Southampton’s world class cleanroom, 4) experimentally measuring their performance, and 5) implementing opto-electronic signal processing for extracting data from the sensors.

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a background in electronics or photonics. The applicant would join a cutting-edge research group in the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton, and work in the state-of-the-art cleanroom facilities and photonic device characterisation laboratories at the ORC. They would work in cooperation with postdoctoral researchers employed on the new £5.8 million project “MISSION” (Mid- Infrared Silicon Photonic Sensors for Healthcare and Environmental Monitoring), and with academic and industrial collaborators with interests in gas sensing.

Efficient mid-IR waveguide couplers for low noise sensors

Supervisor: Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC)

Co-supervisors: Dr Pavel Cheben (National Research Council of Canada) and Dr Milos Nedeljkovic (ORC)

A key challenge for Silicon Photonic circuits is how to efficiently couple light between on-chip waveguides and external light sources like optical fibres or free-space laser beams. Efficient couplers are critical in any optical sensing systems where the signal to noise ratio depends on the light intensity reaching the photodetector. The mid-IR is a new frontier for integrated photonics that requires the use of new waveguide materials and geometries, and new solutions will therefore be needed for efficient light coupling. The project would involve collaboration with Professor Cheben from the National Research Council of Canada, whose group has been a leading developer of new waveguide coupling technologies based on metamaterial engineered photonic devices, which will be applied in this project. The project would involve the design, fabrication, and testing of waveguide couplers and their integration into sensing systems, making use of the Optoelectronics Research Centre’s world leading cleanroom fabrication and photonic device characterisation facilities.

All silicon optical transmitter at 100GBaud/s and beyond

Supervisor: Professor Graham Reed

Co-Supervisor: Professor Dave Thomson/Dr Ke Li

The supervisors have recently been awarded a new EPSRC grant (EP/V012789/1) entitled ‘Towards a revolution in optical communications’. In this project, we have invented several approaches not only to enhance the throughput of the optical transmitter but also to transfer functions that were traditionally done in the electronic domain, to the optical domain, saving cost and energy and dramatically improving performance.

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a background in analogue electronics and an interest in photonics to join this project. The student will join the silicon photonics team and work with the RAs on the project to co-design the electronic and photonic devices that can enable the novel 100GBaud/s optical transmitter. The applicants will have the opportunity to undertake the mm-wave CMOS chip tape-outs and conduct the practical implementation of electronics-photonics device packaging. Furthermore, the project partners will provide strong engagement with both industry (Rockley Photonics, UK) and academia (Peking University, China).

The resources of the project will be leveraged to maximise the impact of the student’s work, and to enhance progress, maximising the effectiveness of both the studentship and the additional EPSRC grant funding.

Laser integration

Supervisor: Dr Frederic Gardes

The successful applicants will join a world leading research group of more than 50 postgraduate students and researchers working on silicon photonics technologies and photonic interconnects technologies in close collaboration with academia (University of Cambridge, University College London and Cardiff University) and industrial partners. The work will be developed as part of two multimillion pounds projects running for a period of 5 years and funded by Industry and EPSRC UK.

These projects are tackling major technological roadblocks associated to silicon photonics and aims to demonstrate the monolithic integration of III/V based photonic devices with CMOS photonic waveguiding components. This breakthrough will enable the development of innovative photonic circuits to serve the requirements of a wide range of low-cost optical interconnects and sensing technologies. The student will work alongside research assistants, industrial partners, national and international collaborators to develop integrated photonics circuits coupling III/V materials grown on silicon to CMOS based waveguides. We are looking for several enthusiastic candidates with background in photonics, electronics, physics or material science to take on specific aspects of these projects. The work will focus on device simulation and design followed by process development and fabrication using one of the best clean room facility in the UK.  Device characterisation will be performed in our state-of-the-art silicon photonics laboratory and in collaboration with our academic partners.

Semiconductor photonic integration in UV/Blue wavelength band

Supervisor: Professor Frederic Gardes

Co-Supervisor: Dr Yaonan Hou

Photonic integration is becoming key solution for next-generation information technologies. Compared with the existing technologies in the near-infrared wavelength band, UV/blue light integration is emerging as an attractive subdivision in integrated photonics. With the advantages of smaller footprint and a larger bandwidth, UV/blue integrated systems hold the promise in the vast applications including, but not limit to, visible light communications, augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) systems, inter-satellite communications, light detection and ranging (Lidar), high-density data storage, quantum photonic chips, chemical/biological photonic chips, and non-Von Neumann photonics 

The objective of this innovative research project is to realize a hybrid system comprising UV/blue light sources fabricated from the third-generation wide band gap semiconductors (group III-nitride materials) and the photonic components based on rapidly developing Si photonics (e.g., waveguides, optical couplers, modulators, detectors).   

The successful candidate will join a cutting-edge research group (https://gp-iv-photonics.org/) in the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton. Within this interdisciplinary project, you will develop a solid knowledge and practical skills in semiconductors and photonics. All the work will be carried out at the ORC, home to a number of modern cleanrooms and advanced testing labs.  The work is mainly composed of the following parts, 1) design and fabrication of III-nitride laser diodes; 2) optimization and fabrication of waveguidesphotonic couplers and photodetectors; 3) characterization of the electrical and optical properties of both the individual devices and the integrated systems. 

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Yaonan Hou (yaonan.hou@soton.ac.uk), or Prof. Frederic Gardes (fg5v@ecs.soton.ac.uk). 

Entry Requirements:  A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent) in physics, electronic engineering, materials science, or a related discipline.  

Funding:  A fully-funded PhD place on this project is available for eligible UK applicantsFor EU  and international applicantsplease see the details from the following link, https://www.southampton.ac.uk/courses/funding/international.pageOverseas students who have secured external funding are also welcome to apply. 

How To Apply 

Applications should be made online and should include:

  • Curriculum Vitae 
  • Two reference letters 
  • Degree Transcripts to date 

 For further information please contact: feps-pgr-apply@soton.ac.uk 

Next generation silicon photonic modulators

Supervisor: Professor David Thomson

Co-Supervisor: Dr Weiwei Zhang

Future growth in the performance of computing systems is hindered by the electronic technology upon which the vast majority of its hardware is realised. Electronic technology is being pushed ever closer to its physical limitations and as performance is pushed further, power consumption is also becoming problematic. Silicon photonics technology is widely seen as the solution, however in its current form the performance and how densely it can integrated into such systems are not sufficient. Especially, the performance of silicon optical modulator which is an important component of a photonic interconnect is limited due to the weak electro-optic effect in silicon.

This project will pioneer a new photonic platform which has the potential to immensely improve the performance of silicon electro-optic modulators and revolutionise future compute systems. The platform involves integrating high performance electro-optic materials such as Lithium Niobate with low cost silicon photonic waveguides to make high performance electro-optic devices for computing systems

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with background in photonics, electronics, physics or material science to take on this project. The work will involve design of electro-optic devices using modelling software, fabrication of devices using one of the best clean room facilities in UK as well as device characterisation in our state of the art high speed silicon photonics laboratory.

Integration of mid-IR lasers with silicon and germanium waveguides

Supervisor: Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC)

Co-supervisors: Dr Milos Nedeljkovic (ORC) and Professor Jon Heffernan (Sheffield)

Recently there has been tremendous interest in extending photonics beyond its traditional spectral regions, such as visible light for imaging, and near-infrared ‘light’ for telecommunications. The mid-infrared region with wavelengths beyond 3 µm has great potential important application areas such as environmental sensing, homeland security and medicine. However, today performance of photonics components (such as light sources, modulators, waveguides, and detectors) operating in the mid-infrared region needs significant improvement to be of practical interest in the above-mentioned applications.

We are looking for candidates interested to investigate integration of mid-IR sources with Si and Ge waveguides. The project will involve a range of activities including the design and fabrication of photonic integrated circuits, characterisation of the fabricated devices, and building/testing of photonics systems. The project will involve close collaboration with Sheffield University where the sources will be fabricated. These sources will be integrated and characterised in Southampton.

Efficient hybrid silicon phase shifters and optical modulators 

Supervisor: Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC)

Co-supervisors: Professor David Thomson (ORC) and Professor Brian Hayden (Chemistry)

Efficient phase shifters and optical modulators are crucial devices for communications, programmable photonic circuits and sensing applications, including LiDAR. The project will comprise of the design of silicon and germanium based phase shifters and optical modulators by incorporation of different materials with Si/Ge to improve the phase shifter/modulator efficiency. These devices will be fabricated, characterised at a range of different wavelengths, and eventually integrated in transmitters/transceivers/sensors in the state-of-the-art Zepler Institute facilities. There will be an intensive collaboration with several colleagues from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and Chemistry where materials such as BTO and PZT will be grown on Si/Ge, as well as from industry. 

Programmable Photonic Integrated Circuits

Supervisor: Professor Graham Reed and Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC) 

Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) based on silicon have recently become an established and powerful technology that supports many applications such as optical communications, chemical and biological sensors, and LiDAR systems. In order to further extend the functionality and feasibility of PICs, programmable photonic circuits have attracted a lot of research interest recently. A programmable photonic circuit can be readily fabricated and then programmed to perform multiple photonic processing functions by using the same hardware programmed into different configurations. This approach has the benefit of providing greater flexibility and is more cost-effective mass fabrication of photonic products as compared to application-specific PICs.

The objectives of this project are to study and realise reliable and efficient programmable PICs on a silicon photonics platform. New technologies and architectures for building programmable photonic integrated circuits will be explored. This role will include the design, fabrication and testing of configurable silicon photonics waveguides and switches. Directional couplers and Mach-Zehnder Interferometers will be studied as basic building blocks, in order to form more complex programmable photonic integrated circuits. Network architecture designs will also be studied and evaluated, such as binary trees, rectangular architectures, and square or hexagonal loops.

We are looking for candidates interested in integrated programmable photonics on a silicon photonics platform. The successful applicants will join the world-leading Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics, and one of the world’s pioneering silicon photonics research groups with over 50 postgraduate students and researchers. The group possesses world-leading research facilities and experimental laboratories, such as a full silicon fabrication suite for 200mm wafer-scale fabrication of silicon photonics circuits, including a DUV scanner, automated and bench measurements setups for wafer-scale testing, as well as full modelling and design capabilities for both electronic and photonic circuits, including bespoke and commercial software suites. The work will be carried out in a collaborative manner within an experienced and committed team, including collaboration visits to both UK and international academic and industrial partners.

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