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High speed, ultra-low photon flux imaging: Developing the potential of spatio-temporal illumination sources

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Martin Dawson
    Dr Michael Strain
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Start date: October 2017
Duration: 3.5 years

Important information: This project is part of a collaboration with the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (FCAP), UK. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to work in the FCAP laboratories and gain first-hand experience in industrially relevant research and development projects.

Background: The development of imaging systems has historically been focussed on the design of optics and camera technologies for the direct viewing of distant or microscopic objects. Recent, major advances have been made in light sources, photodetectors and electronics that open up a whole new range of techniques, including: single pixel cameras, ghost imaging, wide field high-resolution microscopy and single photon imaging. These methods are allowing scientists and engineers to see more spatial, temporal and spectral detail than ever before.

Future systems require performance that goes well beyond simple image capture. Accurate timing information provides access to 3D imaging techniques, while smart image processing and spatially tunable optics can produce sub-diffraction limited images of neural cells and reaction pathways. Operation of cameras in the few photon limit can make use of correlation effects, beating classical limits and offering security. To enable these kinds of imaging applications optical sources must be considered in parallel with the detector technologies.

Project objective: This project will develop the potential of spatio-temporal illumination sources further, targeting their operation at ultra-low light levels in the single photon range. By using Single Photon Avalanche Detector (SPAD) arrays, we will be able to create correlations of generated and detected photons in both space and time. This ability will allow the capture of images with extremely few photons, combined with sparse image processing techniques. The applications of these imaging systems include low flux biological systems, underwater data communications and navigation, and quantum imaging and robotic control.
The PhD student will have access to state-of-the-art LED and SPAD arrays with which to create next generation imaging systems. They will develop spatio-temporal modulation and decoding schemes for low flux imaging and navigation, implementing these using custom electronics. The systems will be demonstrated in macro and micro-scale imaging applications.

This studentship will benefit from and contribute to a wider project supported by the EPSRC UK Quantum Technology Hub for Quantum Enhanced Imaging (, which involves multiple academic and industry partners. Prof. Dawson leads work on the development of structured illumination sources for imaging, navigation and communications.

Training: In addition to the University of Strathclyde’s Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Professional Development, which includes transferrable skills training, all our students are enrolled in the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) Graduate School for subject specific training. Furthermore, students will enjoy access to and receive appropriate training for the use of any required equipment in the photonics and cleanroom facilities at the Technology and Innovation Centre and FCAP labs.

Institute of Photonics
The Institute of Photonics (IoP), established in 1996, is a commercially-oriented research unit, part of the Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde. The Institute’s key objective is to bridge the gap between academic research and industrial applications and development in the area of photonics. The offices, laboratories, and cleanrooms of the IoP are located in Strathclyde’s new Technology & Innovation Centre in Glasgow City Centre. Researchers at the IoP are active in a broad range of photonics fields under the areas of Photonic Materials & Devices, Laser Engineering, and Neurophotonics.

Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics
The Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics provides professional research and development services for industry and is part of the larger Fraunhofer network that is Europe’s largest application orientated research organisation. The student will have access to custom cleanroom and optical laboratories in the TIC and this position will provide a unique opportunity to develop industry contacts in a translational research environment with responsibility at an early stage in an expanding organisation.

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