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Cost-effective 3D lidar imaging for healthcare, robotics and smart devices


Project Description

A fully funded PhD studentship is available in the Centre for Engineering Photonics in the area of 3D lidar imaging. This project will investigate the foundations of a radically new approach to interferometric near-range lidar that is tailored to the use of very cost-effective laser sources and therefore has the potential to find widespread use across many areas of healthcare, robotics and smart devices where there is a growing need of improved situational awareness through high-quality 3D image data.

3D lidar imaging is a rapidly developing area, with notable commercial interest for autonomous cars and robotics, providing situational awareness that is vital to advance these technologies. Particularly for near-range (<1m) applications in robotics, healthcare and smart devices, high-resolution (<1mm) lidar systems are required and could be put to good use in many existing and emerging applications, however, current approaches are often expensive and bulky, prohibiting widespread uptake.

The project is intended to solve some of the fundamental research questions that would allow our recently developed technique called range-resolved interferometry (RRI) to be applied to ultra low-cost (~10£) and compact VCSEL lasers (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser) sources for 3D imaging. So far the RRI approach has only been applied to more complex types of lasers but it is in principle very well-suited to the properties of VCSELs. Key challenges for the PhD project are to develop optical system designs that can still yield measurements using the lower output powers of VCSELs, prohibit spurious optical return light coupling back into the VCSEL, while also allowing beam-scanning using low-cost, compact beam scanning techniques, such as microelectromechanical (MEMS) beam scanners. Additionally, interfacing with electronic signal processing hardware and visualising the acquired 3D data are further important aspects of this project.

This project is part of a wider research effort at Engineering Photonics (including several fellow PhD students) to apply the RRI approach to multiple applications such as fibre-optic sensing and precision interferometry and is associated with the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship “Doppler-Enhanced Lidar System Using Range-Resolved Interferometry” held by the primary supervisor. The project will be based within the Centre for Engineering Photonics at Cranfield, an internationally leading centre for optical sensing and instrumentation research to tackle challenging measurement problems. The centre’s broad research portfolio includes fibre optic sensors, optical flow measurement instrumentation, speckle interferometry, spectroscopic gas detection and medical imaging. We occupy a modern suite of optics laboratories with excellent technician support. Many of our students complete a PhD following a period (or even a career) in industry and we welcome the additional experience that this brings.

This project offers the chance to make a contribution at the forefront of 3D imaging, taking a scientific approach still at a very early stage of its development and thus allowing the student to contribute significantly to solve the real engineering problems that the approach promises. The studentship also offers funding to present the results of the research at leading national and international conferences in the field. For example, previous students in Engineering Photonics have built working instrument demonstrators at the end of their PhD and presented them on a stand at a leading photonics trade show in Europe.

This project will allow the development of expertise in optical system design and electronic signal processing and therefore provides the student with very valuable combination of skills that is highly sought-after in industry and academia. PhD-level research in instrumentation science will also improve general skills in analytical thinking, attention to detail and foster the ability for concise technical communication. Full training will be provided in photonics techniques and electronic signal processing within the Centre. The Introduction to Photonics Experimental Programme is offered to all PhD entrants in the Centre and is completed informally in our laboratories via a series of hands-on experiments. Students are also encouraged to complete the Cranfield Research Students Core Skills Training Programme, which maps onto the Vitae Researcher Development Framework, making them highly sought after by employers. Our students go on to successful careers in the fields of their choice, often in research or development roles in industry, government funded establishments and universities.

Start date: 3 June 2019 or 30 September 2019

For informal enquires and information on how to apply please contact:
Dr Thomas Kissinger (), Prof Stephen James () or Prof Ralph Tatam ()

Funding Notes

To be eligible for this funding, the applicant must be a UK or EU national.

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