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Fluids, superfluids and artificial black holes made of light.

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Daniele Faccio
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Under appropriate conditions, light propagating in nonlinear media exhibits a remarkable behaviour – the propagation is identical to that of a fluid. Perturbations on the transverse beam profile will propagate as waves in a perfect fluid and in many cases the fluid behaves as a superfluid that can be used to study turbulence, vorticity and other phenomena that are of relevance for superfluids and Bose-Einstein condensates. This project, at the interface between laser physics, superfluid physics and quantum physics will investigate new systems in which to observe photon fluid dynamics and will then apply these concepts to a variety of problems. Most notably, we have a long-standing interest in so-called “analogue gravity”, i.e. the creation of hydrodynamical analogues for curved spacetimes that can then be used to mimic and study objects such as (artificial) rotating black holes or (artificial) gravitational waves. This project is strictly experimental.

Please see our research group website for more information and recent publications:

We will consider student with good undergraduate Physics background. Prospective students should have a recent interest in experimental research. All tuition fees are paid and we offer an enhanced stipend for 3 years. Funding restrictions mean that only UK (or EU citizens that have carried out the last 3 years of their studies in the UK) can be considered.

Heriot-Watt’s Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences is a thriving environment for PhD research, having a total of 160 academics, postdocs, PhD and EngD students working full-time in the general photonics field. Heriot-Watt is based in a modern environment on the outskirts of Edinburgh, with excellent transport links to the centre of one of Europe’s most exciting cities. Heriot-Watt was recently awarded (November 2013) an EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Applied Photonics, cementing Heriot-Watt’s reputation as a centre of excellence in photonics, and providing PhD students with an even more attractive environment for study, as well as enhanced training opportunities. IPaQS is one of the main partners in the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) whose Graduate School provides added value to PhD student education in Scottish Physics Departments, principally in terms of inter-University video-linked taught courses and transferable skills tuition.

Funding Notes

All tuition fees are paid and we offer an enhanced stipend for 3.5 years. Funding restrictions mean that only UK citizens (or EU citizens that have carried out the last 3 years of their studies in the UK) are eligible to be considered.


Please supply 2 reference letters or 2 reference contact names.

How good is research at Heriot-Watt University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 20.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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