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Doctor of Engineering (EngD) Development of a novel single photon quantum key detection (QKD) optical ground station for secure satellite based communications (Wideblue)

  • Full or part time
    Prof D Reid
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, April 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Project not available to non UK/EU applicants.

The EngD is an alternative to a traditional PhD aimed at students wanting a career in industry. Students spend about 75% of their time working directly with a company in addition to receiving advanced-level training from a broad portfolio of technical and business courses. On completion students are awarded the PhD-equivalent EngD.

The successful applicant will be a registered student of Heriot-Watt University.

Project information
Wideblue have an Industrial Strategy Challenge fund Innovate UK 3 year project to develop an optical ground station receiver for quantum communications. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a well understood application of quantum technology and there are several metropolitan fibre networks already established for QKD services. However, key distribution is limited by absorption inside optical fibres which mean that transmissions over distances greater than about 150 km are impractical. Free space communications, though, does not suffer the same degree of attenuation and single photon communication with satellites orbiting the Earth at several hundred kilometres has been demonstrated. Satellites then, provide an ideal vehicle for distributing quantum key information across very large distances between end users spread across countries or continents. However, in order to benefit from the advances in satellite technology, a network of Optical Ground Receivers (OGRs) are required to receive and detect the photons carrying the key information. The UK, as a major player in the development of advanced optical & photonic technologies, is well positioned to address this future market for OGR. This project works with users to specify OGR requirements and prototypes and tests a QKD receiver, whilst designing and making plans for scaled manufacture in the UK.

Project Information
Wideblue have an Industrial Strategy Challenge fund Innovate UK 3 year project to develop an optical ground station receiver for quantum communications. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a well understood application of quantum technology and there are several metropolitan fibre networks already established for QKD services. However, key distribution is limited by absorption inside optical fibres which mean that transmissions over distances greater than about 150 km are impractical. Free space communications, though, does not suffer the same degree of attenuation and single photon communication with satellites orbiting the Earth at several hundred kilometres has been demonstrated. Satellites then, provide an ideal vehicle for distributing quantum key information across very large distances between end users spread across countries or continents. However, in order to benefit from the advances in satellite technology, a network of Optical Ground Receivers (OGRs) are required to receive and detect the photons carrying the key information. The UK, as a major player in the development of advanced optical & photonic technologies, is well positioned to address this future market for OGR. This project works with users to specify OGR requirements and prototypes and tests a QKD receiver, whilst designing and making plans for scaled manufacture in the UK.

Candidate Information
Essential Criteria
Degree in Physics, Mechanical or Electronic Engineering
Willingness to travel for meetings, field trials etc.
Willingness to work under confidentiality (NDA / CDA)

Desirable Criteria
Masters in Physics, Mechanical or Electronic Engineering
Optical Engineering Project or work associated experience in a relevant project / product.
Working knowledge of Zemax (now called OpticStudio) optical design and modelling software package and / or working knowledge of Solid Works mechanical design software package.

Company Information
Wideblue is a SME (16 Scientists and Engineers) based in Glasgow doing new technology product design. Wideblue’s projects span new medical devices, industrial equipment, consumer products and advanced satellite and imaging products. Wideblue staff cover the areas of Physics / Optics, Mechanical Engineering, Electronics, Software and quality system.
Wideblue have an office, design studio and series of laboratories in West of Scotland Science Park, Glasgow. Wideblue carry out optical and CAD modelling, detailed design, prototype builds and design for manufacture.

Flexible Research Working
This is a large multi disciplinary project where the candidate will work with a range of other disciplines. This opens the scope for the candidate to work on and specialise in aspects of:
Optical Design – Telescope, beacon laser aiming, multi wavelength optical optimization
Detection and sensor technology
Mechanical Engineering
Embedded software and control systems


Funding Notes

This 4-year (including CDT taught-courses) project is funded jointly by the EPSRC CDT in Applied Photonics, run by Heriot-Watt University and the Industrial Sponsor. The annual stipend is £21,053, which includes an enhancement from the Industrial Sponsor. A substantial consumables and equipment budget is provided by a concurrent EPSRC grant. Travel funding for conference presentations is also available.



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