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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - Development of Planar Waveguide Based Gas Sensors for Challenging Environments (AWE and University of St Andrews)

School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

Prof D Reid , Monday, May 31, 2021 Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Edinburgh United Kingdom Electrical Engineering Mechanical Engineering Optical Physics Computer Science Materials Science Physics Software Engineering

About the Project

This project looks to draw on the expertise within the CDT in Applied Photonics to support the development of novel optical sensing technologies to support AWE in its mission to support and maintain the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

Sensor technologies are essential to provide data from experiments to improve understanding of chemical ageing processes and mechanisms. In some situations, electrical-based measurements may introduce an unacceptable safety risk and as such optical-based sensor technologies provide a viable alternative to obtain empirical data.

Although optical sensing is a relatively mature field it is niche, and many challenges exist that prevent these techniques from being readily deployed including lack of sensitivity, lack of selectivity, limited long-term stability and chemical incompatibility.

This PhD project will look to develop novel optical gas sensor technologies based upon fibre coupled waveguide ultra-compact devices, using a silicon on insulator platform. The candidate will be required to develop gas specific device designs, fabricate these and then perform sensor evaluations, using the clean room fabrication facilities and optoelectronic laboratories, available in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews. The overall aim to enable this technology to deployed within future ageing experiments.

Essential Criteria

The ideal candidate will have a 1st or 2:1 (or equivalent) in Physics, Electrical Engineering or a relevant discipline. They will be proactive and willing take ownership of project and demonstrate a greater balance towards an experimental aptitude.

Desirable Criteria

A background in photonics, electronics and programming would be an advantage.

Candidate Information

The student will be embedded in the group of Synthetic Optics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews. The group manages the electron beam facilities of the School and has a large suite of laboratories to characterise sensing and imaging devices, from the visible to the infrared range. The School of Physics and Astronomy has a >100 strong cohort of Photonics staff and research students and its facilities include two cleanrooms, mechanical and electronic workshop. The project will be a unique opportunity to acquire advanced nanofabrication skills and apply them to an out-of-the-lab scenario at AWE.

Flexible Research Working

The School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews has Juno Champion status (Institute of Physics) which reflects its commitment to family friendly policies and creating a work environment of benefit to all staff and students.


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.

Funding Notes

Funding for this position may vary depending on the nationality/status of the applicant.

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