Photonics, lasers and nonlinear optics

The School has a very strong research effort in laser physics, photonics, and nonlinear optical phenomena including:

  • laser cooling and trapping of atoms - the use of multiple laser beams and graded magnetic fields to cool (slow down) atoms and atomic beams. This work allows researchers to study the fundamental physics of atoms and also has technological applications in atom beam lithography.
  • optical materials - nonlinear properties of polymers and chalcogenide glasses and the application of polymers to novel optical fibre devices such as all optical amplifiers.
  • photonics - research includes development of novel organic-inorganic polymer glasses IPGTM for the fabrication of optical chips and design/modelling of optical waveguide devices.
  • optoelectronic devices - MOCVD growth of a variety of lasers and detectors including InP-based vertical-cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs), quantum well structures and quantum dot infrared photodetectors. Ion beam intermixing is also used for post-growth modification of devices.
  • quantum computing - development of quantum computer architectures based on nuclear/electron spins that are associated with optically active centres. This allows the spins to be manipulated and measured using purely optical techniques.
  • optical solitons - in spatial optical solitons the process of diffraction is prevented by the self-induced change of the refractive index. Spatial solitons are of special interest for applications in all optical switching or processing. We study theoretically and experimentally the formation and interaction of various types of spatial optical solitons in optical systems.
  • Theoretical modelling of nonlinear optical phenomena - guided wave photonics, modelling and design of novel light-processing devices for telecommunications and other applications. modelling of Bose-Einstein condensation and associated applications. Left-handed materials offering a negative index of refraction.

Although much of our research focuses on light lasers, we also have a world-leading research effort in the area of atom lasers based around BECs. In areas such as satellite gyroscope rotation measurement central to positioning measurements, BEC matter lasers offer inherent accuracy millions of times better than current systems.

Selected research highlights

Potential student research projects

You could be doing your own research into fusion and plasma confinement. Below are some examples of student physics research projects available in RSPE.

Please browse our full list of available physics research projects to find a project that interests you.

Recent advances in laser technology now enable the combination of multiple high-quality lasers into a single high-power beam. The aim of this project is to investigate such `coherently-combined' laser systems within the context of Earth-to-Space laser transmission. Applications of this technology include satellite laser ranging, clock transfer and free-space optical communications, and space debris tracking and remote manouevring.

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Student will develop a source of laser light at 775nm that will be utilised for pumping of squeezing cavities  

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This project aims to develop a breakthrough all-optical approach to create micro-domain patterns in nonlinear optical media using tightly focused femtosecond pulses. It will lead to the first flexible all-optically formed quasi-phase matched structures, enabling access to a broad range of applications for exceptional control over both photons and phonons.

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Optical cavities are widely used in physics and precision measurement.  This project will explore the use of modern machine learning methods for the control of optical cavities.  

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Updated:  15 June 2016/ Responsible Officer:  Director, RSPE/ Page Contact:  Physics Webmaster