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All-Optical Modulation for Optical Computation and Imaging

University of Exeter - College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Exeter
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £15,609
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 3rd November 2021
Closes: 24th January 2022
Reference: 4333

Streatham Campus 

Historically, most computation tasks have been carried out using electric charge. However, all-optical computation and signal processing potentially offers huge increases in speed and reductions in losses. However, while electrons are easy to control with external fields, light can only be manipulated via its interaction within a medium. As a consequence, a lot of research in optical computation focuses on designing devices that can perform a single specific task using the operations allowed by linear optics. To go further than this, optical computation faces a very significant challenge:  it requires a nonlinear process in which multiple optical signals must interact. Unfortunately, most materials exhibit a very weak optical nonlinearity, even under intense illumination by light. 

In recent years, a new group of materials, referred to as transparent conductive oxides, have signalled a potential solution: in a narrow spectral region in the near infrared, where the permittivity of the material approaches zero, it has been shown that transparent conductive oxides can display one of the largest and fastest nonlinear optical responses of any material ever discovered [1,2]. Since this initial discovery, it has been shown that the optical nonlinearity of these materials can be further enhanced by spatial patterning [3], or by coupling to plasmon resonances [4]. 

In this project, using a combination of ultrafast optical measurement and Finite Element Modelling, we will search for the optimal conditions for optical computation using transparent oxide materials. Thin, layered materials will be designed in which the product of two optical signals can be calculated – these will then be tested using state-of-the-art ultrafast laser experiments, in which we will look to perform fundamental optical calculations such as products and convolutions: the building blocks of next generation optical computers. 

[1] Science 352, 795  (2016)
[2] Nature Reviews Materials 4, 535 (2019)
[3] Nature Comm. 7,  12892 (2016)
[4] Nature Comm. 12, 1017 (2021)

Entry Requirements 

This studentship is open to UK and Irish nationals, who if successful in their application will receive a full studentship including payment of university tuition fees at the home fees rate. 

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.

An undergraduate degree in physics or natural sciences is essential, as is the completion of undergraduate modules in electromagnetism and/or optics. 

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  

Alternative tests may be acceptable (see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/english/). 

The University of Exeter’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in January 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,609 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. 

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