Nanophotonics & Metamaterials

Our Nanophotonics and metamaterials group are world-leaders in these burgeoning research fields. Having recieved the most prestigious UK funding awards, including a £6M Programme grant on Nanotructured photonic metamaterials, the Nanophotonics portfolio grant, and the Basic Technology grant on Optical Super-resolution.

The fields of nanophotonics and metamaterials are concerned with achieving efficient control over light on the nanoscale, where a remarkable range of new phenomena are found with wide-ranging potential applications in low-power, high-speed, ultra-small devices.

We anticipate that the next photonic revolution will be fuelled by a dependence upon photonic metamaterials and nanophotonic devices leading to dramatic new science and applications on a global scale.

We target the development of functional nanostructured photonic media to provide ground-breaking solutions for telecoms, energy and light generation, imaging, lithography, data storage, sensing, and security and defence applications. These goals will be achieved by advancing the physics of the control, guiding and amplification of light in nanostructures and by developing new nanofabrication techniques, hybridization processes, and procedures for the integration of novel nanostructures.

We are seeking bright and highly motivated postgraduate research students of outstanding calibre (with backgrounds in physics, materials science and related subjects) to work in several areas at the intersection of spectroscopy, nonlinear optics, and nanophotonics:

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PhD Projects:

Metamaterials for Toroidal Spectroscopy

Supervisor: Vassili Fedotov 
Co-Supervisor: Nikolay Zheludev

Toroidal dipole excitations were observed for the first time at the ORC in 2010 and now are subject of growing interest because of their unusual electromagnetic properties (see: Nature Mater. 15, 263 (2016)).

This PhD project will pursue proof-of principle demonstrations of a new type of optical spectroscopy sensitive to toroidal transitions in matter. We hope to develop a unique new tool for investigating the physics of interactions, and energy/information transfer involving toroidal excitations at the molecular and macro-molecular level in novel artificially structured media and biologically important systems.

We seek candidates with a deep knowledge of fundamental physics and mathematics, an interest in photonic technologies, and a desire to develop advanced skills in nanofabrication and experimental photonics.

The student will join a strong international group of students, postdoctoral and academic staff working together on many aspects of nanophotonics, spectroscopy and electrodynamics. 

 

Free-electron Nanophotonics

Supervisor: Nikolay Zheludev
Co-Supervisor: Kevin MacDonald & Zexiang Shen (NTU Singapore)

The ORC hosts the UK’s flagship research programme on photonic metamaterials - a new generation of nanotech-enabled materials with engineered, actively controllable optical properties (see: Science 348, 973 (2015); www.nanophotonics.org.uk).

When free-electrons fly past or impact on nanostructures, they generate light. These interactions can be used to create new types of tuneable nanoscale light sources. Moreover, the light generated light can serve as a probe to obtain detailed information about the nanostructure itself.

This PhD project, involving close collaboration with partners at The Photonics Institute in Singapore, will engage a new type of electron source that generates ultrashort pulses. This presents us with a unique opportunity to develop novel nanoscale optical sources and to study nanostructures with an unprecedented combination of spatial and temporal resolution, and so to investigate how advanced dielectric and plasmonic material platforms and nanostructures can provide novel new free-electron functionalities for photonics at the nanoscale.

We seek candidates with a knowledge of and keen interest in fundamental physics, and a desire to develop advanced skills in electron microscopy, computational electromagnetic modelling and nanofabrication.

 

Super-Oscillatory Telescope

Supervisor: Nikolay Zheludev
Co-Supervisor: Edward Rogers & Kevin MacDonald 

In 2007 the ORC pioneered a new super-resolution imaging technology that allows microscopy with resolution far beyond the diffraction limit of conventional systems. This “super-oscillatory” approach is now being deployed and tested at the university’s Institute for Life Sciences to study living cells (see: Nature Materials, 11, 432 (2012); www.nanophotonics.org.uk).

We now propose to develop a new family of telescopes - devices for forming images of remote objects - based on super-oscillatory concepts. These will achieve better angular resolution in smaller and much lighter packages than conventional glass- or mirror-lens instruments, offering applications in navigation, range-finding and alignment instruments (including automated systems on space platforms); metrology, surveillance; robotics; and directed energy sources.

This PhD project will investigate and demonstrate new physical principles underpinning the operation of super-oscillatory telescopes based on nanotechnology-enabled lenses and will aim to develop working prototypes in a variety of configurations.

We seek candidates with a knowledge of and keen interest in fundamental physics and optics, and a desire to develop advanced skills in experimental photonics, computational electromagnetic modelling and nanofabrication.

The student will join a strong international group of students, postdoctoral and academic staff working together on many aspects of cutting-edge nanophotonics research.

 

Novel nano-mechanical materials and devices for photonics

Supervisor: Eric Plum
Co-Supervisor: Nikolay Zheludev

The ORC hosts the UK’s flagship research programme on photonic metamaterials - a new generation of nanotech-enabled materials with engineered, actively controllable optical properties (see: Science 348, 973 (2015); Nature Nanotechnology 11, 16 (2016); www.nanophotonics.org.uk).

One of the main research directions of our programme is developing metamaterials consisting of nanoscale building blocks that can be moved by external forces (e.g. due to electrical or magnetic signals and light illumination). Such nanoscale motion can radically change the optical properties of matter and will enable the development of a new generation of optical devices such as re-focusable flat lenses, dynamic holographic displays and optical components with programmable properties.

This PhD project will look at the intriguing physics of electromagnetic, mechanical and optical forces at the nanoscale and will aim to develop practical applications of nano-opto-mechanical metamaterials in photonic devices.

We seek candidates with a knowledge of physics, an interest in photonic technologies, and a desire to develop skills in advanced nanofabrication, electron and optical microscopy, experimental photonics and computational electromagnetic modelling.

 

Nanostructured photonic metamaterials on fibre-optic platforms

Supervisor: Eric Plum
Co-Supervisor: Nikolay Zheludev

The ORC hosts the UK’s flagship research programme on photonic metamaterials - a new generation of nanotech-enabled materials with engineered, actively controllable optical properties (see: Science 348, 973 (2015); www.nanophotonics.org.uk).

The integration of these new functional materials and of metamaterial-enabled devices with optical fibre telecommunications technology is the core mission of the programme.

This PhD project will investigate and demonstrate ways in which metamaterials can help to guide and control light signals in optical fibres, by engaging a variety of phenomena such as structural phase transitions in nanostructured and confined solids, nano-mechanical motion, or nonlinear and coherent light-matter interactions.

We seek candidates with a knowledge of physics, an interest in photonic technologies, and a desire to develop advanced skills in experimental photonics, computational electromagnetic modelling and nanofabrication.

 

Multiphysics modelling of the optical,thermal, and mechanical properties of plasmonic nanostructures

Supervisor: Dr Nikitas Papasimakis
Co-supervisor: Prof Nikolay Zheludev 

Recent advances in nanofabrication have enabled rapid progress in the field of nanophotonics and plasmonics, providing unprecedented control over light propagation and promising applications in information processing and transfer in current and future optical networks, as well as in sensing, imaging, and metamaterials. A key component for the realization of the field’s potential is nonlinear behaviour, which is typically achieved by the coupling of the optical characteristics of the system to different physical properties (electronic, magnetic, thermal, etc.). However, despite a surge in research activity during the past 15 years, the interplay between the physical properties of nanostructures with complex shapes and its optical response remains a challenging problem.

The project will address the issue by developing a platform for multiphysics modelling of the nonlinear properties of plasmonic nanostructures at a range of different length scales. Our approach will employ a combination of finite element methods, discrete dipole approximation and semi-analytical considerations based on the multipole expansion. We will consider the coupling between the electronic, magnetic, and thermal properties to the plasmonic response in nanostructures consisting of a range of different materials, starting from bulk noble metals (gold, silver) and moving to atomically thin materials (graphene, molybdenum disulphide). Finally, our approach will be extended to two- and three-dimensional array configurations of nanostructures aiming to design metamaterials with novel functionalities.

The candidate will join the Nanophotonics and Metamaterials group, whose research activities span the full spectrum from materials and nanofabrication, to optical characterization and computational modelling. We expect that the work undertaken within the project will be closely coordinated with parallel experimental activities in the group.

For further details, and to discuss the position informally, please contact Dr Nikitas Papasimakis.  To apply visit http://www.ngcm.soton.ac.uk/apply.html.

 

Ultrafast Dynamics in Photonic Metamaterials

Supervisor: Kevin MacDonald
Co-supervisor: Nikolay Zheludev

The ORC hosts the UK’s flagship research programme on photonic metamaterials - a new generation of nanotech-enabled materials with engineered, actively controllable optical properties (see: Science 348, 973 (2015); www.nanophotonics.org.uk).

Advanced materials with unique dielectric and plasmonic properties offer new and enhanced modes of light-matter interaction. They are redefining the limits of what is possible in terms of the magnitude and speed of material response to optical excitation over nanometre-scale interaction lengths, and promise step-changes in the miniaturization and reduced energy consumption of optical modulation, sensing, switching and memory devices.

This PhD project will investigate nonlinear and phase-change response mechanisms in a variety of ultra-thin and nanostructured designer optical materials, for example extremely high-/low-refractive index dielectrics, and plasmonic ‘topological insulators’ with intriguing electromagnetic surface states.

We seek candidates with a knowledge of and keen interest in fundamental physics and ultrafast/nonlinear optics, and a desire to develop advanced skills in experimental photonics, computational electromagnetic modelling and nanofabrication. The student will join a strong international group of students, postdoctoral and academic staff working together on many aspects of cutting-edge nanophotonics research.

 

Magneto-optic Metamaterials

Supervisor: Kevin MacDonald
Co-supervisor: Nikolay Zheludev

The ORC hosts the UK’s flagship research programme on photonic metamaterials - a new generation of nanotech-enabled materials with engineered, actively controllable optical properties (see: Science 348, 973 (2015); www.nanophotonics.org.uk).

These advanced materials offer dramatically enhanced and indeed completely new modes of interaction between light, matter, and electric or magnetic signals in ultrathin films, opening the door to an era of ‘flat optics’ and a step-change in the miniaturization of optical devices.

This PhD project, sponsored by the British multinational advanced technology company QinetiQ (www.qinetiq.com) under the Dstl Materials for Strategic Advantage (MSA) programme, will investigate magneto-optic effects in planar metamaterials, looking at ways in which new materials and nanostructures can provide novel and/or enhanced functionalities such as components transmitting light only in one direction and optical switches controlled by magnetic field.

We seek candidates with a knowledge of physics or materials science, an interest in photonic technologies, and a desire to develop advanced skills in materials discovery and characterization, computational electromagnetic modelling, nanofabrication, and experimental photonics. The student will join a strong international group of students, postdoctoral and academic staff working together on many aspects of cutting-edge nanophotonics research. (Applicants for this project must be a UK or EU nationals; dual nationals will be considered.)

 

Materials Discovery for Photonic Metamaterials

Supervisor: Kevin MacDonald
Co-supervisor: Nikolay Zheludev

The ORC hosts the UK’s flagship research programme on photonic metamaterials - a new generation of nanotech-enabled materials with engineered, actively controllable optical properties (see: Science 348, 973 (2015); www.nanophotonics.org.uk).

The University is also home to a unique ‘materials discovery’ facility enabling synthesis of thin films composed of almost any combination of elements to achieve designer optical materials with unique characteristics: For example, extremely high- or low-refractive index media; materials with properties that can be switched by light, electric or magnetic signals; and ‘topological insulators’ with intriguing electromagnetic surface states.

This PhD project will investigate how these advanced materials can be used to create new functionalities for photonic applications and to enhance the performance of metamaterial devices.

We seek candidates with a knowledge of physics or materials science, an interest in photonic technologies, and a desire to develop advanced skills in materials discovery and characterization, nanofabrication and experimental photonics. The student will work between the ORC and the School of Chemistry, joining a strong international group of students, postdoctoral and academic staff working together on many aspects of cutting-edge nanophotonics.

 

Nanoscope Technology for Bio-Imaging

Supervisors: Nikolay Zheludev (ORC) & Peter J. Smith (IfLS Director)
Co-Supervisor: Dr Edward Rogers (IfLS Advanced Fellow)

In 2007 the ORC pioneered a new super-resolution imaging technology that allows microscopy with resolution far beyond the diffraction limit of conventional systems. This “super-oscillatory” approach is now being deployed and tested at the university’s Institute for Life Sciences to study living cells (see: Nature Materials, 11, 432 (2012); www.nanophotonics.org.uk).

We now propose to develop advanced implementations of the technology: first, to enable three-dimensional imaging of living cells with resolution significantly exceeding conventional confocal microscopy; and second, to facilitate super-resolution phase-contrast microscopic imaging.

This PhD project will investigate and demonstrate new physical principles underpinning the operation of super-oscillatory microscopes. A working prototype will be assembled and tested on live biological samples.

We seek candidates with a knowledge of and keen interest in fundamental physics and optics, and a desire to apply this knowledge to important challenges in biology. The student will develop advanced skills in experimental photonics, computational electromagnetic modelling and nanofabrication, joining a strong international group of students, postdoctoral and academic staff working together in an interdisciplinary environment

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