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University of Leeds Featured PhD Programmes
FindA University Ltd Featured PhD Programmes

3D polarization imaging for optical storage and quantitative biology


Department of Physics

, Monday, August 31, 2020 Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

During the PhD project the student will develop models of the interaction of light with 3D polarisation sensitive samples and construct novel polarisation microscopy systems. These 3D microscopes will be used to measure 3D samples and demonstrate the recovery of polarisation data throughout a volume, in both optical data storage and biological contexts.
Data centres for cloud computing need to store large quantities of data in an archival format, where durability of the data is paramount. Examples of archive data include medical records, personal backups, insurance data or CCTV recordings. Currently archive data, also called “cold data”, is stored in magnetic tape which is only durable for a few years and data must thus be replicated periodically at huge cost. To address this issue, Microsoft Research is currently investigating the use of 5D high capacity polarisation multiplexed optical data storage in a collaborative research project called Project Silica. The 5D data storage technique uses a focused femtosecond laser to write data into the bulk of a glass block. At the focus of the laser a small ellipsoidal structure is formed with an orientation and size related to the input polarisation and intensity of the light respectively. Readout and recovery of such polarisation multiplexed data requires development of new advanced polarisation microscopes.
In addition to the field of optical storage, the question of measuring polarisation properties in three dimensions is very useful for biologists. Polarisation imaging modalities offer additional contrast mechanisms, allowing study of tissue birefringence or diattenuation. Collagen fibres, for example, exhibit both birefringence and diattenuation, the magnitude of which provides a measure of the local density and orientational uniformity, which in turn can give insight into the function and bio-mechanics of different structures. Furthermore, polarisation measurements can reveal the micro-structure and composition of tissues. Structural differences in, for example, elastin in skin can result from burns, photodamage or the development of skin cancer. 3D polarisation information can hence play a key role in tissue diagnosis and guided surgery, reducing the need for invasive biopsies or histological studies.

Funding Notes

This fully funded four year MRes+PhD project will be co-supervised by Prof. Mark Neil and Dr Matthew Foreman based at Imperial College London and Dr. James Clegg of Microsoft Research Cambridge. The ideal candidate would have a first degree in physics or engineering with strong practical and modelling skills. They will build an advanced knowledge of optics through incorporation of theoretical and laboratory based elements and will have the opportunity to contribute to an exciting joint academic/industrial research project.

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