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NGCM-0061: Modelling of electromagnetic and vibrational wave propagation in semiconductor nanostructures

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Sapienza
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Engineering of electromagnetic waves is essential to realise all-optical networks for the transfer of the information, stored in single photons. By using light as the information carrier, the “photonic revolution”, based on devices operating at the speed of light, is expected to take place. To achieve this goal, a careful modelling of waves confinement and their guidance on-a-chip is required.
The interaction of semiconductor nanostructures with mechanical vibrations also needs to be carefully controlled to reduce decoherence mechanisms and be able to implement solid-state nanostructures as single-photon sources in real-life applications.
Being able to control the properties of a single-photon source coupled to mechanical oscillations is expected to pave the way to the development of sensors with unprecedented sensitivity. Engineered mechanical systems offer a new approach to fast (>GHz) manipulation of single quantum dots, offering a route to manipulating the spectro-temporal properties of single photons, which would be an enabling resource for many fundamental and applied studies that use quantum light sources. Mastering of the interaction between a single emitter of the smallest constituent of light, the single photon, and mechanical vibrations also makes it possible to investigate the application of developed devices in the field of sensing.

The student will model the spontaneous emission dynamics of dipoles embedded in optical cavities and waveguides and design complex optical circuits for the control of light emission and propagation in semiconductor-based devices. Transient and steady-state behaviours will be investigated via finite-difference time-domain simulations of electromagnetic wave propagation. Furthermore, dielectric structures for the control of vibrational modes propagation will be studied and their effects on the coherence of the photons emitted by embedded nanostructures will be modelled via finite element analysis. The properties of a novel sensor will be investigated for realistic parameters and its limits and capabilities will be tested in view of industrial applications.

This research project merges together the areas of photonics, engineering, sensing and computer modelling. Through the CDT, the student will acquire a solid knowledge of computer modelling, she/he will analyse real life problems and investigate the possibility of fabricating sensors in view of industrial applications. Skills will be developed in particular in the areas of numerical modelling, data handling and visualization, statistics and simulation methods.

The novelty in computational methods relies in the merging of electromagnetic and mechanical simulations of semiconductor nanostructures. Finite-difference time-domain electromagnetic simulations will be merged with finite element analysis of mechanical modes, to develop a comprehensive model that will give access to the sensing properties of single-photon emitters. The student will work at the frontier between physics and engineering, gain experience in modelling and cross-disciplinary research. Expertise in electromagnetic and mechanical modes simulations will be acquired and used to optimize real life devices.
Furthermore, the development of optical circuits is essential for the next generation of computers, based on single photons, that are expected to revolutionize current computational capabilities and to dramatically increase the speed of information transfer and minimize its susceptibility to eavesdropping.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Luca Sapienza, Quantum, Light and Matter research group, Email: [email protected], Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2110.

This project is run through participation in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Next Generation Computational Modelling ( For details of our 4 Year PhD programme, please see

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