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PhD Studentship: Synthesis of Supramolecular Host Architectures for Rare-earth Guests: New Platforms for Quantum Technology

University of Southampton

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: 3.5 years full tuition fees, for UK/EU students, and a tax-free stipend of £15,009 per year
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 28th May 2019
Closes: 28th August 2019

Supervisor: Sam Thompson

Co-supervisor: James Gates, Peter Smith

Project description

We are looking for an enthusiastic and well-organised student to join a vibrant and growing research group to work on a collaborative project with the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics.

The project will explore the design and synthesis of novel supramolecular architectures to host rare-earth ions for applications in Quantum Technology. The key aim is to construct hosts that: (i) position a lanthanide ion in a precisely defined environment; and (ii) are amenable to robust incorporation into an integrated photonic platform.

The studentship is multidisciplinary and will offer the opportunity to: (i) explore macrocyclic and supramolecular design, (ii) undertake a broad range of organic synthesis, (iii) work closely with researchers in the Zepler Institute to learn skills in photonics. Simple performance testing will be carried out in the Zepler Institute, while more advanced analysis will be conducted with other members of the UK QT community at Bath, Oxford and Imperial. There is also huge potential for commercialisation of single photon sources – an area in which the project team has extensive experience.


An unmet challenge in Quantum Technology and the construction of the “Quantum Internet” is the realisation of quantum memories. These devices have the potential to store and retrieve the single photons that are crucial for repeaters for long distance secure quantum communications and future quantum computers.

Currently this area is hampered by an inability to achieve a local atom environment of a quantum system (an electronic transition) which is isolated sufficiently to prevent quantum decoherence, and hence provide long memory life-times, while allowing efficient photonic coupling.

To enhance the optical interaction the ion needs to be precisely integrated into an optical cavity. Ideally it would be optical fibre coupled, providing a low-loss interface and a simple route for introduction to a cryogenic environment, which is necessary to thermally isolate the system. The fibre coupled nature of the system is essential for a viable commercial device but despite the huge potential a robust solution has yet to be realised.


Nanophotonic rare-earth quantum memory with optically controlled retrieval:

Science, 357 (2017), pp. 1392-1395

Organo lanthanide metal complexes for electroluminescent materials:

Chem. Rev., 2002, 102, pp. 2357-2368

Research and training environment

The Thompson group is based in the modern synthetic chemistry laboratories in the School of Chemistry on the leafy Southampton Highfield Campus. Experimental chemistry is supported by world-class MS, NMR and X-ray facilities, with expert staff in each area to help design methods and analyze data. In addition to training in practical synthetic methods the student will be supported through regular group meetings and problem sessions. There will also be opportunities for the supervision of junior co-workers, and funds available for the presentation of work at national and international conferences.

Co-supervisors Gates and Smith are based in the Zepler Institute. Further information can be accessed at:, 

Key facts

Funding: 3.5 years full tuition fees, for UK/EU students, and a tax-free stipend of £15,009 per year

Please place Sam Thompson in the field for proposed supervisor/project

General enquiries should be made to Sam Thompson at  Any queries on the application process should be made to

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