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Doctor of Engineering (EngD) - Development of compact remote gas detection devices using chip-scale deep ultra-violet light-emitting diodes and single photon detectors (Fraunhofer and University of Strathclyde)

   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

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  Prof D Reid, Dr Johannes Herrnsdorf  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The project is focused on developing new sensor technology for Hydrogen: an increasingly important - yet notoriously difficult to detect – molecule.

FCAP have already developed novel stand-off H2 detection systems based upon a combination of pulsed lasers and single-photon detector instrumentation. The performance demonstrated is impressive, but the embodiment of such high-cost, high-complexity technology precludes application in many of the scenarios which need it most. The key question is therefore: can lasers be displaced by far more compact, cost-effective and energy efficient UV LED sources? How might such LEDs be optimized for this application?

Hydrogen detection by optical means is in its infancy, and yet has already attracted significant interest from large industrial interests. Such end users care about not only performance, but the practical application of this technology. We have already used our laser-based instrumentation in never-before achieved measurement applications, and fully expect LED-based devices to enjoy similar impact. The combination of bespoke deep-UV LED arrays and single-photon detection in the context stand-off molecular detection is unique.

We will develop stand-off Raman instrumentation for H2 detection. The candidate will be involved at all parts of the development cycle, from optical modelling, design and experimentation; semiconductor design and interfacing; digital control and instrumentation; and system integration. This will draw deeply on experimental skills (electronic, laboratory and mechanical design) and the knowledge base of the candidate.

This is a highly applied project, and there is opportunity for the candidate to interact with potential industrial consumers of this technology.

The proposed programme encompasses a wholesale departure from our previous technological embodiments, and requires a bottom-up redesign of all of the subsystems which comprise the integrated device. Each one of these subsystems represents an interesting challenge in itself, and the resulting thesis could be subdivided by chapter based upon each subsystem. That the project requires in-depth investigation of basic physical principles; mechanical, electronic and optical design; and integration make this ideally suited to a doctoral thesis in length, and the highly applied aspects of the work make it particularly well-suited to the EngD scheme.

The academic supervisor, Dr Johannes Herrnsdorf, has expertise and research interests which are perfectly aligned to the aims of this project. He has a proven track record in the development of chip-scale LED arrays, high-speed interfacing to bespoke FPGA control electronics, and application of single-photon detection to a number of high-impact applications and combines this with a chip-level understanding of SPAD and TCSPC operation. His research interests include the development and application of deeper-UV LED arrays, and so his practical insight – combined with his understanding of the physical principles which underpin this project – will be invaluable.

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:

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.  

The candidate will be working as part of a team operating between the Institute of Photonics, University of Strathclyde; and the wider Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics. We are a highly motivated team who combine academic excellence with advanced engineering principles in order to bring benefit to the UK economy and its citizens. As such, we enjoy excellent links with industrial partners and the candidate will be able to experience translation of their technology from research laboratory to end use.

We are a professional R&D organisation, and as such maintain core hours of operation. However, we are flexible in our approach and welcome such discussions.

CDT Essential Criteria

A Masters level degree (MPhys, MSc) at 2.1 or equivalent.

Desire to work collegiately, be involved in outreach, undertake taught and professional skills study.

Project Essential Criteria

Understanding of optical and semiconductor physics.

An ability to review relevant pre-existing literature.

Desire to undertake an experimental project which encompasses optics; lasers; interfacing to instrumentation; mechanical and electronic design and fabrication (the appropriate knowledge will be supplied); system integration; analysis of results.

Strong desire to develop and interface to digital electronics subsystems.

A strong desire to interact with external end-users of the developed technology.

Project Desirable Criteria

Pre-existing knowledge of interfacing, computer programming (Matlab, Labview, Python, etc.) desirable.


The CDT in Applied Photonics provides a supportive, collaborative environment which values inclusivity and is committed to creating and sustaining a positive and supportive environment for all our applicants, students, and staff. For further information, please see our ED&I statement Forming a supportive cohort is an important part of the programme and our students take part in various professional skills workshops, including Responsible Research and Innovation workshops and attend Outreach Training.

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