The University of Southampton

Silicon Photonics PhD Projects

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), 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.

Silicon and germanium photonic sensors for medical applications

Supervisor: Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC)

Co-supervisors: Dr Milos Nedeljkovic (ORC), Professor Saul Faust (Medicine, Southampton)

A number of molecules show strong absorption bands in the mid-infrared wavelength region (2μm<λ<15μm). As silicon and germanium are transparent in the mid-IR, they are main candidates for compact photonic circuits and systems for bio/chemical and medical sensing. In this project photonic circuits will be designed and fabricated, microfluidic channels integrated with photonic chips and finally different sensing experiments performed, particularly targeting applications in healthcare (e.g. cancer, Alzheimer, poisoning, antimicrobial resistance). In this multidisciplinary project, the student will work with researchers from photonics, chemistry, medicine and electronics. The state of the art facilities at the Southampton Nanofabrication Centre, Medical Faculty and Optoelectronics Research Centre will be available for the design, fabrication and characterisation of mid-infrared medical sensors.

Efficient hybrid silicon phase shifters and optical modulators 

Supervisor: Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC)
Co-supervisors: Professor David J 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. 

Silicon Photonics for Ocean Pollutant Monitoring 

Supervisor: Professor Goran Mashanovich (ORC)

Co-supervisors: Professor Qilei Song (Imperial college), Dr Rand Ismaeel (National Oceanography Centre) 

This exciting multidisciplinary PhD project aims to develop a new class of marine sensors based on cutting-edge silicon photonics research. The past decade was exceptional in terms of global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities. Sea water is 26 percent more acidic than at the start of the industrial era, which poses an extreme hazard. The ocean absorbs about 38% of the CO2 released in the atmosphere. There is, therefore, a pressing need to measure and quantify levels of concentrations of CO2 and identify its origin.

In a collaboration between the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), and Imperial College, the successful candidate will study the detection of ocean pollutants such as CO2 and methane (CH4) by designing, fabricating and testing sensors for monitoring their unique spectral absorption fingerprints in order to understand their evolution and life cycle from the seabed to the atmosphere and vice versa. The student be based at the ORC, where silicon chips will be fabricated in state-of-the-art clean rooms, but will have the opportunity to conduct experiments at the NOC’s world-class facilities, where sensors will be integrated in submarines and gliders at the Marine Autonomous Robotics centre.  

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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