The proposed project involves the ASN research lab led by Dr. Ferrera (Heriot-Watt University) and Optalysys a world leading company in ultra-fast optical information processing. This project proposes an alternative route for developing novel photonic devices for real-time engineering of the optical wavefront. This will be attained by using novel Transparent conducting oxides operating in their NIR epsilon-near-zero window. In this frequency range unprecedented nonlinearities have been recently demonstrated by Dr. Ferrera’s and co-workers. The present project proposes to exploit TCOs’ optimized complex nonlinearities (i.e. the possibility to modulate dispersion and absorption of a material using light in order to have full control over an optical carrier) to design a new class of time-varying flat devices capable of performing wavefront engineering on a sub-picosecond time scale and along propagation distance of few hundreds of nm. These components, besides overcoming the fundamental limit of static operation, will outperform standard plasmonic metasurfaces in terms of energy efficiency, while also enabling a plethora of functionalities which are intrinsically unreachable by traditional flat optics (e.g. non-reciprocal components such as optical isolators and circulators). The proposed technology is tremendously relevant for optical imaging, cryptography, pulse shaping, polarization engineering, and enhanced sensing and it might be the key for the next generation convolutional neural networks for optical machine learning targeted by Optalysys. The selected candidate will develop fundamental skills in material modelling, computer assisted design, and device testing by operating state-of-the-art professional tools of critical importance in both industry and academy. while acquiring deep understanding in material science, nonlinear optics, and integrated photonics, the student will be developing industrial experience and acquire knowhow for the commercialization of high-tech products.
We are looking for a talented, proactive, and strongly motivated individual to work on ground- breaking science. A suitable applicant must have a first class degree in physics or other relevant subject in the physical sciences or engineering and a background in experimental physics (e.g. high score in education & training labs) with good knowledge on math tools such as Matlab.
Experience with simulation software (e.g. CST microwave studio, COMSOL Multiphysics, Lumerical, etc.) and programming languages for data acquisition and instrument control (e.g. LabView, Python, etc.) will be a plus.
The selected student will be based at the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences of Heriot-Watt University and will have full access to the outstanding nano-fabrication and photonic characterization facilities available on campus. He/she is expected to occasionally travel for both national and international conferences and meetings while also attending scientific dissemination events. The project encompasses numerical modelling, fabrication processes, and optical testing of integrated optical devices in both linear and nonlinear regime. The very applicative nature of the proposed project will luckily lead to different external collaborations while producing ground-breaking results to be published in high impact journals. The flat optical components at the centre of the present doctoral programme are potentially transformative for numerous key applications in optics and photonics including real time optical wavefront processing, adaptive optics, optical computing, wavefront sensing, etc. All these aspects are central for the R&D team at Optalysys Ltd. which will support the accomplishments of all the targeted goals and the professional development of the selected candidate. Optalysys will be closely following every work development, providing fundamental insights about possible commercialization and exploitability of all attained results. Optalysys will also provide a three months training in its photonic labs for the student to learn about the last technological advancements in intensive optical parallel computing for machine learning applications.
Flexible Research Working
The proposed PhD projects could be carried out with a certain degree of flexibility as long as a proper level of commitment and professionalism is provided by the candidate. Specific work arrangements could be discussed with potential candidates in order to satisfy specific personal needs.
As outlined in the project description, the fundamental goal is that one of actively changing the optical wavefront by exploiting the nonlinearity of a functionalized ENZ thin films by a control beam. However, the study will also investigate the possibility to use the giant nonlinearities provided by our materials to extract info about the wavefront of an radiation impinging on our ENZ material (wavefront reconstruction/sensing). Both strategies are within the domain of “wavefront engineering”.