Miniature Frequency Combs for Applications in Quantum Time-Keeping

   Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences (IPaQS)

  Prof D Reid  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A frequency comb is a laser technology providing a sequence of ultra-narrow, precisely spaced optical frequencies whose positions are defined by just two radio frequencies, and can be considered as a "gear wheel" that provides a rigid connection between radio frequencies and optical frequencies.

By using radio frequencies referenced to a quantum standard e.g. GPS time or a hydrogen maser, a frequency comb can provide atomically traceable optical frequencies with a precision at the 10^-12 level.

Conversely, when the frequency comb is stabilized in the optical domain, e.g. by referencing one comb line to an emerging quantum-optical standard like a clock transition in a neutral Sr atom, it can be used to generate precision radio frequencies required for distributing "quantum time" across a network, with applications in telecommunications, finance and defence.

Heriot-Watt's Ultrafast Optics Group is a leading developer of frequency combs in the UK. Using a proprietary bonding technique, we have already published results showing a route to "palm-sized" frequency combs that consist simply of a handful of micro-optical elements bonded to a baseplate (Opt. Lett. 46, 5429 (2021)).

We are now seeking a talented MPhys, MEng or MSc graduate to join our team as a PhD student to develop fully stabilized laser frequency combs based on applying this technology to Yb:ceramic and Ti:sapphire lasers. The project is available from October 2022, with flexibility for a deferred start into 2023.

Key targets are the development of:

• a radio-frequency-stabilized, diode-pumped and "palm-sized" Ti:sapphire frequency comb

• an optically-referenced Yb:ceramic frequency comb, stabilized to transitions in molecular iodine

• a line-narrowed comb by referencing to an external stable cavity.

• ultimately, an optical synthesizer, where the precision of the comb is transferred to multiple cw lasers e.g. the cooling, trapping and clock lasers for a neutral strontium optical lattice clock, including 461 nm, 679 nm, 707 nm, 689 nm, 698 nm and 813 nm.

This PhD project will be supported by a leading laser company manufacturing narrow-linewidth cw lasers for the quantum technology community. This link will allow the PhD student to develop their personal professional network and to identify and exploit the most exciting opportunities for collaborative research.

Suitable applicants will have a 1st class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in a physics or engineering course and be strongly motivated to pursue three to four years of intensive practical work. Candidates must have a solid understanding of optics and lasers, and experience of laboratory work, although not necessarily in optics. Relevant undergraduate research project experience is desirable but not essential. Experience with Matlab also is desirable.

The Ultrafast Optics Group is a group of 5 postdocs and 3 PhD students with excellent gender and nationality diversity. Our three laboratories on Heriot-Watt's Riccarton campus host a variety of state-of-the-art laser and diagnostic equipment. The expertise of our team and our group's excellent research resources will allow the PhD student to make rapid progress, leading to high quality journal publications and international conference presentations.

The research project is based within Heriot‑Watt’s Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences (IPaQS), 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 located on a modern campus on the outskirts of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK), with excellent transport links to the centre of one of Europe’s most exciting cities.

This vacancy is open to individuals who qualify for home fee status as UK residents. The stipend for the 2022/23 academic year is £16,062 per annum and is increased annually.

Interested candidates can contact the group head, Professor Derryck T. Reid () to arrange an informal call to discuss the project in more detail.

Formal applications must be made through the Heriot-Watt on-line application system,

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