The University of Southampton

Physical Optics

Focussing on adventurous and potentially high impact research in optics, quantum and physical electronics the group's current research includes three main areas:

  • Fundamentals and applications of new optical materials with optical properties 
    modified by strong electric and light fields including poling-assisted engineering of glass-metal nanocomposites and glass poling for all-fibre frequency convertors and electric-field sensors.
  • Integrated technologies for quantum information processing and communication including quantum cryptography with poled optical fibres and integrated optics for atom detection.
  • Fundamentals and applications of ultrafast laser material processing and photosensitivity including femtosecond laser direct writing of 3D photonic structures with new functionalities.

Group webpage

PhD Projects: 

Supervisor: Professor Peter Kazansky 

Laser modification of materials at micro- and nanoscale for
photonics and information technology

High-power ultrafast lasers enable the new technique of direct optical writing for patterning waveguides and nanostructures in three dimensions, to provide entirely new functionalities. Three-dimensional photonic structures will allow significant increases in the scale of integration in optical information processing and data storage opening tantalizing possibilities in the fields of photonics and information technology including recent demonstration of 5D data storage.

This project explores a variety of advanced ultrafast laser material processing techniques, the ultrafast physics of femtosecond photosensitivity and applications of 3D photonic structures.

Printed optics by ultrafast laser nanostructuring of 
transparent materials

Supervisor: Professor Peter Kazansky

Modern optical systems applied to key optical markets such as mobile and optical communications, healthcare, security, lighting and photovoltaics require complex optical surfaces to satisfy demand for enhanced performance at a reduced installation space. The projects aims to develop single-step printing technology of flat optical elements.

The research involves fundamental study of interaction of ultrashort light pulses with optical materials, in particular, recently discovered self-assembled nanostructuring of transparent materials by femtosecond laser direct writing and its applications for direct printing of geometrical phase optics elements. The printing technology will then be used to fabricate beam shaping optics for stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy, high power fiber lasers and optical components for polarization imaging.

Hollow beam lasers for laser processing of materials

Supervisor: Professor Andy Clarkson

Co-supervisors: Dr Peter Shardlow and Professor Peter Kazansky

Laser modes with a doughnut-shaped beam profile can have many unique properties, including axially-symmetric polarisation (azimuthal or radial) or orbital angular momentum. As a result, these beams have a diverse range of applications from ‘laser tweezers’ and high resolution microscopy to laser processing of materials. However, direct generation of these beams in a laser at the power levels required for many of the applications continues to be very challenging. This project will explore novel approaches for generating hollow laser beams in fibre, bulk and planar lasers exploiting recent advances in fabrication techniques for ultra-low loss spatially-variant waveplates. The latter are two-dimensional arrays of microscopic waveplates written in silica glass by an ultrafast laser. This technology, invented at Southampton, offers the possibility of being able to directly select specific laser modes to achieve intensity profiles and polarisation distributions that are tailored to suit applications and with very high efficiency.

Our approach will target lasers operating in the two-micron wavelength band and routes to very high average power levels with real-time flexibility in mode of operation. The project will investigate the underlying physics of hollow-beam generation in lasers and the fundamental limits. Particular emphasis will be directed pulsed mode of operation, and the generation of high peak powers and high pulse energies where there is a wealth of exciting applications. The project will then explore the potential benefits that these sources can yield in a range of laser processing applications using our in-house laser processing facility.

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