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Quantum-level imaging and communications with high-speed, high-density micro-LED-based structured illumination

Institute of Photonics

About the Project

The Institute of Photonics (IoP) is a recognised international pioneer of “micro-LEDs”, arrays of micron-sized light-emitting diodes constituting a new high-brightness microdisplay and backlighting technology – being applied, for example, to advanced virtual and augmented reality headsets. Indeed, the IoP created a spin-out company in this area, mLED Ltd., which was acquired by Oculus VR in 2016. These devices have proven interesting capabilities in application areas well beyond simple display functionality, including biophotonics, wireless optical networks, and quantum level imaging. The attraction in this technology is underpinned by direct interfacing to CMOS electronics, operation at very high (Megahertz) frame rates, and data transmission at gigabits/second. Such rapidly modulated patterned light enables a form of optical projection called structured illumination with applications in indoor navigation, spatially modulated data communications, single pixel imaging and bio-imaging. These GaN microdisplays have an extremely low size weight and power footprint, and can be run with ultra-low photon flux. By coupling these displays with high speed single photon avalanche detector (SPAD) arrays, we have demonstrated photon level communications over hundreds of meters as well as 3D and multi-spectral imaging methods. Initial demonstrations with 16×16 LED arrays operating at 2-30 kHz in the 30 photons per bit regime have already garnered significant interest from the scientific and industrial communities.

This project will transform these earlier concept demonstrations into an unexplored regime of high pixel count and MHz update rates. The research is based on a new generation of 128×128 LED arrays, which are currently being developed at the Institute of Photonics in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, and which present a host of new challenges and opportunities. In order to operate these high-density arrays in the millions of frames per second regime, it is necessary to accurately control the timing of more than 70 parallel digital control signals with nanosecond precision. The successful applicant will help to develop electronic control interfaces that meet these demands, investigate their effect in different device configurations (e.g. different LED emission wavelength from deep UV to green), and link them to demands from specific applications, in particular those linked to the National Quantum Technologies Programme. They will integrate these LED arrays into prototype systems for microfabrication, high frame-rate imaging with single photon sensitivity, and new digital systems that merge sensing and communications functions. The project will encompass optical systems design and development, electronic driver and software coding and sparse data signal processing techniques, all of which are skills in high demand both in academic research and in industrial R&D. The PhD student will have access to state-of-the-art, custom LED and SPAD array devices, optical characterisation facilities and software tools, and will contribute to the UK’s national programme on Quantum Technologies. They will be co-supervised by research staff from Fraunhofer UK, which is an R&D organisation with strong links to the UK’s Photonics industry.

Institute of Photonics:
The Institute of Photonics (IoP), part of the Department of Physics, is a centre of excellence in applications-oriented research at the University of Strathclyde - the Times Higher Education UK University of the Year 2012/13 and 2019/20, and UK Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2013/14. The Institute’s key objective is to bridge the gap between academic research and industrial applications and development in the area of photonics. The IoP is located in the £100M Technology and Innovation Centre on Strathclyde’s Glasgow city centre campus, at the heart of Glasgow’s Innovation District, where it is co-located with the UK’s first Fraunhofer Research Centre. Researchers at the IoP are active in a broad range of photonics fields under the areas of Photonic Devices, Advanced Lasers and Neurophotonics, please see:

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