Fully Funded PhD Scholarship: Femtosecond Electron Microscopy of Ultrafast Phenomena on the Nanoscale

Swansea University - Physics

This scholarship is jointly funded by the College of Science, Swansea University and the Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC), STFC Daresbury Laboratory. 

Start date: 1 October 2018

Project supervisors:
Supervisor 1: Dr Will Bryan (Department of Physics, College of Science, Swansea University)
Supervisor 2: Dr Mark Surman (Accelerator Science and Technology Centre, ASTeC, STFC Daresbury Laboratory, Cheshire)

Miniaturization of electronic devices minimizes power usage while maximizing computation rates, the former vital for future societal progress within feasible environmental constraints, the latter facilitating more capable devices. Manufacturing is approaching the limit to which silicon-based electronics can be reduced in size and efficiency, hence there is significant interest in ultrafast nanophotonics and nanoplasmonics, the interaction of pulses of light with nanoscale structures producing highly-localized electric and magnetic fields along with transient currents. These phenomena have potential applications in light-matter electronics, for example in future information and communications technology (ICT) devices, facilitating optical manipulation of electrons with very little thermal activity.

When investigating, harnessing and engineering microscopic processes, the vital technology is imaging. Although transmission, scanning and atomic force electron microscopies probe materials on very short length scales, they cannot capture the extremely fast dynamics of the constituents. In this project, we will make use of femtosecond electron microscopy and diffraction, recently developed time-resolved imaging techniques ideal for tracking dynamics on the nanoscale. 

Dr Bryan has demonstrated femtosecond electron microscopy of charge dynamics around a nanoscale laser-illuminated conductor, resolving to better than 100 nm in 100 femtoseconds. This performance will be extended to facilitate pulse compression to below 10 femtoseconds, perfectly compatible with ultrafast nanoplasmonic processes. Electron energies of 70 keV are applicable to surface dynamics in devices on this characteristic length, and will resolve down to 3 nm features. Generating electron pulses with positive and negative chirp will also be investigated as a method for delivering high flux pulses in very short timescales without distortion.

Dr Surman and the STFC-funded VELA (Versatile Electron Linear Accelerator) team at Daresbury have demonstrated single-shot diffraction with a 1 pC electron bunch at 5 MeV, penetrating a micron hence suited to probing electron dynamics inside multi-layer devices. The successful applicant will be involved in all elements of this state-of-the-art combination of laser-driven electron production, acceleration, compression, focusing and use as an imaging tool.

Uniquely, the project will see the student spend time using facilities both in Swansea and Daresbury, hence experiencing both University and Facility operation while being involved in design, modelling, construction, testing and proof-of-principle experiments. They will also be expected to push the development of our understanding of nanophotonic and nanoplasmonic processes. The successful applicant will be involved in interdisciplinary and future application thinking, develop a research network, and contribute to outreach activities while on placement.


Academic requirements:
Candidates must have a first, upper second class honours or a Masters degree with Merit, in a relevant discipline. 

Residency criteria:
Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

Additional Funding Information
This  three-year scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £14,777. 

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