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Development of compact remote gas detection devices using chip-scale deep ultra-violet light-emitting diodes and single photon detectors


About This PhD Project

Project Description

The detection of hazardous (toxic / explosive) or environmentally damaging substances and gases is an extremely important endeavour. Stand-off methodologies – where the composition of the atmosphere can be measured over substantial range – have become a very important technology in fields as diverse as manufacturing, homeland security and the nuclear industry.

Raman spectroscopy is a very potent tool for molecular identification. In this technique, the spectral analysis of the light scattered by the substance or gas of interest gives great insight into its molecular composition. The weakness of this scatter, however, makes Raman measurements at range extremely challenging. In this project, we will take advantage of two recent advances in opto-electronic instrumentation and quantum technologies which has the potential to confer enormous improvement in generated Raman signal and its detection; hence enabling operation at considerably greater range.

Using short-wave excitation provokes exponentially stronger Raman scatter, and so we will explore and exploit the availability of deep ultra-violet light sources based upon laser and – in particular – LED technology. The recent availability of LED light sources is particularly interesting in the context of realising compact, lower cost and man-portable systems for front-line deployment. With recent advances in nitride-semiconductors, there is now an excellent opportunity to translate this ultra-compact technology into the deep UV wavelengths.

The second innovation exploits state of the art, UV-optimised single-photon avalanche detectors (SPADs). These exquisitely sensitive detectors – down to the single photon level – will maximise the detection potential of the valuable Raman scatter once produced.

The project will require the development of experimental systems based upon these technologies, along with optical design for wavelength-selective instrumentation, electronics for single-photon counting and embedded computer control. Once the physical principles have been validated in the laboratory, there is a strong desire to then refine the technology into concept demonstrators for evaluation and deployment in a range of exciting and timely front-line applications. Whilst the student will focus mainly on the application of deep-UV LEDs and single-photon detectors to remote Raman sensing, they will also collaborate with students and researchers working on other aspects of the technology, such as data communications, analogue and digital electronic interfacing of the devices.

The project will be undertaken jointly between the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (FCAP) and the Institute of Photonics (IOP); both based at the University of Strathclyde - the Times Higher Education UK University of the Year 2012/13 and 2019/20, and UK Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2013/14. The IOP and FCAP are both located in the £100M Technology and Innovation Centre on Strathclyde’s Glasgow city centre campus.

The IOP has an excellent track record of developing digitally interfaced systems based on chip-scale micro-LED emitters and silicon single-photon detectors with extraordinarily low size, weight and power footprint. Recent experiments in the visible wavelength range demonstrated 3D ranging/imaging over meter ranges and communications over km distance with devices that had order of magnitude lower dimensions and power consumption than laser-based systems. The IOP is part of the National Quantum Hub on Quantum Enhanced Imaging which has a focus theme area on imaging at extreme wavelengths, thus providing a rich academic environment to this project in addition to its industrial relevance. Researchers at the IoP are active in a broad range of photonics fields under the areas of Photonic Devices, Advanced Lasers and Neurophotonics, please see: http://www.strath.ac.uk/science/physics/instituteofphotonics/ourresearch/.

Uniquely placed in the UK R&D landscape, FCAP enjoy an excellent reputation for developing state-of-the-art optical instrumentation optimised to meet the needs of industrial end users. Their staff are drawn from the best of the academic, mechanical design and electronics sectors, and it boasts extensive laboratory and engineering infrastructure. They have extensive connections into a range of potential UK-based industrial consumers of the technology developed over this project, and are perfectly placed to refine it from the laboratory to the front line.

Student eligibility: To enter our PhD programme applicants require an upper-second or first class BSc Honours degree, or a Masters qualification of equal or higher standard, in Physics, Engineering or a related discipline. Full funding, covering fees and stipend, is available for UK and EU nationals only.

How to apply: Applicants should send a CV to

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