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Monitoring Buildings, Volcanoes and Seismic Activity Using Large Ring Laser Gyroscopes

   The Dodd-Walls Centre

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Monitoring Buildings, Volcanoes and Seismic Activity Using Large Ring Laser Gyroscopes

A ring laser is a self-excited optical oscillator employing a cavity where the round trip path encloses a finite area. Two or more counter propagating modes are exciting within the active medium and can be made to interfere on exiting through any cavity mirror. When subject to an externally imposed rotation (or any non-reciprocal effect affecting the beams), the beat frequency measured on a detector fixed relative to the laser body is linearly proportional to the imposed rotation with a very large dynamic range. The Canterbury ring laser group, in collaboration with international partners in Germany, has built and operated numerous very large ring laser gyroscopes over the last three decades (see for example, ref [1]). These lasers have ranged in size from 1 m2 to approximately 834 m2.

This project involves the development and operation of a large scale (up to 16 metre perimeter), He-Ne based ring laser gyroscope within a recently constructed, five storey building. Exploiting our expertise in absolute rotation sensing, we will utilise the ring laser system (co-located with fibre optic gyroscopes, tilt meters and conventional seismometers) to develop a long term monitoring facility sensitive to the rotational motion induced by seismic activity and therefore unique in New Zealand. In addition, we will explore the use of the newly developed laser to monitoring volcanic activity via the far field infra-sound emissions induced by explosive volcanic eruptions.

Finally, we note that there is strong interest from civil engineers in inter-storey drift and torsional excitation of tall buildings induced by seismic motion, which cannot be measured using conventional accelerometers. In collaboration with civil engineers, we will apply the very large dynamic range of our rotation sensing lasers, as well as their insensitivity to translation, to these problems. This work will inform the development of practical and affordable sensors for reliable monitoring of large structures before, during, and after seismic activity.

[1] K.U. Schreiber and J.-P.R. Wells, Invited Review Article: Large Ring Lasers for Rotation Sensing, Rev. Sci. Instr. 84, 041101 (2013).

Supervisors: Prof. Jon-Paul Wells*, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ.

Assoc. Prof. Kasper Van Wijk, University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ.

Professor Jon-Paul Wells is a laser physicist with applications in condensed matter physics including materials for quantum information storage and bio-medical imaging.

The wider context

The Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies is a national Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE)and a world-class organisation which builds on Aotearoa-New Zealand’s (NZ) internationally acknowledged strength in the fields of quantum optics, photonics, ultracold atomic gases, and precision atomic physics. Photonics, the manipulation of the quantum building blocks of light, and the precision control of matter at the atomic scale through the use of light, underpin technological development in areas such as computing, advanced sensing technologies and medical imaging, and communication.

The Dodd-Walls Centre, hosted by the University of Otago, involves six universities in NZ. Your PhD project while based at one institution will allow you to collaborate with researchers from across the Centre. More information about our Research Centre can be found here:

The Dodd-Walls Centre mission

• To solidify our position as a Research Centre that is recognised as one of the world’s leading organisations in the field of photonic and quantum technologies,

• To train and develop skilled staff and students to the highest international standards,

• To capitalise upon the international investment in quantum and optical sciences for the benefit of New Zealand,

• To support the rapidly growing high-tech industry sector, thus ensuring New Zealand’s economic diversification and providing career pathways for the outstanding people that we train,

• To provide support for New Zealand’s climate action through improved environmental measurement and monitoring, and,

• To ensure that the benefits of advances in science and technology, especially in photonics and quantum technologies, are available to all.

What we offer

The successful applicant will receive a PhD scholarship of NZ$28,500 stipend per annum plus fees. The stipend is for three years. The scholarship is tax-free.

We also provide funding to support research, including for travel to visit collaborators and attend conferences.

Eligibility requirements

Applicants must meet Canterbury University entry requirements for admission to a PhD . Award of the scholarship is conditional on the university accepting your enrolment. The successful applicant will be guided through the process of formally applying for admission.

This is an interdisciplinary project so applicants from a wide range of academic backgrounds will be considered.

This project is based in Christchurch, New Zealand and is available for immediate start.

How to apply

To express your interest in this scholarship and PhD research opportunity, please prepare the following items:

A brief CV including qualifications, academic achievements, list of publications, work history, and references.

A copy of your academic transcript(s).

Please submit your application via email to the main supervisors of this project Jon-Paul Wells () who will guide you through the scholarship application process.

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