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PhD in Engineering - Chip Scale Optical Frequency Combs

   College of Science and Engineering

   Friday, June 30, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The James Watt School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) are seeking a highly motivated graduate to undertake an exciting 4-year PhD project entitled “Chip Scale Optical Frequency Combs”.

Project Description

Integrated photonics is a major emerging technological field with the potential for massive impact on the biomedical, security, defence, transportation, telecoms and other sectors. Specifically, integrated high-Q optical microresonators could form the basis for a vast array of new devices including handheld optical clocks, trace gas detectors, ultraprecise lidar, narrow-linewidth lasers, low-noise microwave sources, biosensors, gyroscopes and optical data transmitters. This project addresses two of the main challenges in bringing such devices to fruition: achieving ultra-high-Q waveguide ring resonators and integrating these with semiconductor lasers on the same chip. The project will focus on developing silicon nitride waveguide ring resonators with Q factors approaching 108 and above, building upon the latest and most advanced techniques for deposition, nanolithography and etching, and modelling the waveguide geometry to optimise dispersion. The resonators will then be used for frequency comb generation, with emphasis on self-referenced octave-spanning combs for optical clocks and dual-comb spectroscopy.

Personal specification - successful candidates are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in physics, engineering or a similar subject with class 2:1 (or equivalent) or above. A master’s degree is preferable but not essential and previous research experience is greatly valued. The project includes the design, modelling, fabrication and characterisation of photonics devices and systems. The students will also be expected to engage with the UK Quantum Technology Programme, including collaborative working and networking activities with other UK Universities, industry and government agencies. 

Working environment 

For the first half of their project, the student will be based primarily at the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre ( at the University of Glasgow. This is a world-leading cleanroom facility where the student will have access to a comprehensive range of cutting-edge equipment for growing, etching, imaging and characterising integrated photonics devices on both III-V and silicon platforms, all supported by full-time technical staff. Here, they will develop and hone the process of fabricating silicon nitride waveguide ring resonators on silicon wafers, from growing and depositing silica and silicon nitride all the way through to patterning, etching and polishing, with the aim of achieving very high Q factors. They will also be able to build upon considerable in-house experience in working towards integrating III-V semiconductor laser sources with the resonators. During the remainder of their project and short trips before that, the student will work at the National Physical Laboratory within the Time and Frequency Department, where they will use the resonators to generate frequency combs. They will have access to two laboratories and a cleanroom that are fully equipped for these purposes. They will also benefit from close collaboration with NPL experts in optical frequency metrology and gas spectroscopy.

The student will be co-supervised by Prof. Marc Sorel at the University of Glasgow, a leading expert in integrated optics, silicon photonics and semiconductor lasers, and by Dr Jonathan Silver, who leads NPL’s Microphotonics activities. The successful applicant will have access to the professional training courses and support offered by NPL’s Postgraduate Institute for Measurement Science (PGI) and Glasgow’s Doctoral Research Training.

 How to Apply

Application for this scholarship is made by using the Glasgow University online system at the following link:

Funding Notes

The studentship, supported by the EPSRC iCASE award, covers tuition fees. This position offers a competitive salary of £18,000 per annum for 4 years with additional research funding for training, travel and consumables. To be eligible for this funding, applicants must meet the UKRI criteria for home students:
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