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Dynamic wavefront engineering via epsilon-near-zero nonlinearities (EPS2020/20)

Project Description

By exploiting the remarkable nonlinearities of bulk and nanostructured thin films operating in their epsilon-near-zero frequency window, different device configuration will be explored for the efficient and ultra-fast manipulation of the optical wavefront.

An alternative route for developing novel photonic devices for real-time engineering of the optical wavefront is proposed. This will be attained by using novel Transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) operating in their epsilon-near-zero window, a frequency range where drastically enhanced nonlinearities have been recently demonstrated. The present project proposes to exploit TCOs’ remarkable complex nonlinearities (i.e. the possibility to arbitrarily modulate both dispersion and absorption via optical control) to design a new class of time-varying flat devices capable of performing wavefront engineering on a sub-picosecond time scale and along propagation distance of few hundreds of nm. These components, besides overcoming the fundamental limit of static operation, will outperform standard plasmonic metasurfaces in terms of energy efficiency, while also enabling a plethora of functionalities which are intrinsically unreachable by traditional flat optics (e.g. non-reciprocal components such as optical isolators and circulators). The proposed technology is very relevant for optical imaging, cryptography, pulse shaping, polarization engineering, and enhanced sensing and it might be the key for the next generation convolutional neural networks for optical machine learning. The selected candidate will develop fundamental skills in material modelling, computer assisted design, and device testing by operating state-of-the-art professional tools of critical importance in both industry and academy. while acquiring deep understanding in material science, nonlinear optics, and integrated photonics, the student will be developing industrial experience and acquire knowhow for the commercialization of high-tech products.


All applicants must have or expect to have a 1st class MChem, MPhys, MSci, MEng or equivalent degree by Autumn 2020. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or by Skype). This scholarship is only open to UK/EU applicants who meet UK residency requirements set out by EPSRC.

Closing Date

All applications must be received by 28th February 2020. All successful candidates should usually expect to start in September/October 2020.

How to Apply

Apply Online - https://hwacuk.elluciancrmrecruit.com/Admissions/Pages/Login.aspx

When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:
(a) in ‘Study Option’
You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Physics PhD and select September 2020 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)
(b) in ‘Research Project Information’

You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.

Funding Notes

The annual stipend will be approx. £15k and full fees will be paid for a period of 3.5 years.

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