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Ground to space laser communications through atmospheric turbulence

Project Description

Applications are invited for a 3.5 year fully funded EPSRC PhD research studentship to develop concepts and technologies to advance the capabilities of free-space optical communication links. The successful applicant will work with Dr James Osborn in the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, Department of Physics at Durham University. The full-time studentship, includes a stipend of £15,009 per year, fees and support for research costs and conference travel.

* Specific areas of interest include: Atmospheric turbulence, free-space optical communications, computational modelling, data analysis, optical instrumentation, laser communications

* Aim: The aim of this doctoral research is to understand and develop the technologies to enable regular, robust and sustained laser links between the ground and orbiting satellites for communication. Using light instead of conventional radio waves will enable 10 to 100 times higher data-rates, helping us to meet demands for higher capacity data transmissions that societies around the world have become accustomed to. These technologies can also be used to increase the productivity of Earth observations satellites, as well as robotic and manned inter-planetary and deep space missions.

Turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere distorts communication laser beams, causing errors in the received signal. The aim of this doctoral research project is to study the effects of atmospheric turbulence on laser beams propagating between the ground and an orbiting satellite. The project also includes the possibility of developing novel mitigation solutions, such as robust Adaptive Optics systems, capable of operating in strong turbulence conditions and during the day.

The research programme includes elements of computational modelling, development and use of a free-space optical communication test facility, along with collecting and analysing data from experiments. To begin with these will concentrate on the effects of atmospheric turbulence on communication systems, and will form a part of ongoing work with international collaborators to engage actual optical links with orbiting satellites.

The studentship will be supervised by Dr James Osborn and Co-Supervised by Prof Gordon Love.

* Research environment: The Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, within the Physics Department at Durham University, is a world leading research centre with a large and successful Astronomical Instrumentation group, including Adaptive Optics and Space Science technologies. The Adaptive Optics group has significant experience in analysing atmospheric turbulence and the use of computer modelling of complex optical systems to design optical instrumentation to some of the world’s premier astronomical observatories. The CfAI has also been at the cutting edge of space research for many years producing key optical components for instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope and Earth observation satellites SENTINEL 4 and METimage.

* Required skills: Applicants should have or expect to attain at least an upper second class integrated masters or a first-class bachelor’s degree in a related subject (e.g. Physics, Engineering). We are looking for a candidate who has a passion for the application of novel approaches to design optically based solutions to real world problems and who can demonstrate self-motivated ingenuity, innovation, drive and creativity. Programming and data analysis skills are desirable. Good team-working and communication skills are essential.

Funding Notes

The full-time studentship, includes a stipend of £15,009 per year, fees and support for research costs and conference travel.

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