Research Centre for Photonics and Instrumentation
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Photonics and Instrumentation

Potential research student projects

The following are potential research student projects for doctoral candidates joining the PhD Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Fibre Optic Sensors for Structural Health Monitoring

Professors K T V Grattan and Tong Sun

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM), whether in buildings, bridges or in other types of structure has become increasingly important as a means to monitor the ‘health’ of the structure, to become aware of internal damage or decay before surface effects show or to schedule maintenance. Conventional methods of monitoring are often inadequate due to the difficulties in either sourcing or incorporating sensors in the structure. This project seeks to develop new types of SHM systems using fibre optic sensors which can be integrated into the structure itself, either when it is made or retrofitted. The project is highly interdisciplinary and bridge between civil and structural engineering, materials science, photonics and optics. The aim is to create, evaluate and optimize sensors and to undertake field testing in association with partners in the UK and internationally. The work is supported by funding from UKIERI through the British Council.

High temperature fibre optic sensors

Professors K T V Grattan and Tong Sun

Conventional sensors are often limited in the extent to which they can be used at elevated temperatures due to damage and failure of the device. The temperatures at which many processes in industry operate has been increasing and in certain sectors, such as aerospace, temperatures well over 1000°C are common. Operation in this region calls for a new class of sensors and optical fibre-based techniques can be developed to deal with the measurement of key parameters such as temperature itself, pressure, strain and chemical parameters. This is done through the use of either exotic glass fibres or fibres based on sapphire, for example. The project seeks to design and develop a number of such sensors, to evaluate their characteristics for operation at such high temperatures and to compare performance with conventional devices. The project is supported by the EU Clean Skies funding scheme, linking to several partners in Europe and the UK.

Fibre Optic based chemical sensors for heavy metals monitoring

Professors Tong Sun and K T V Grattan

Sensors for a variety of chemical measurements are increasingly needed in industry today and greater reliability and accuracy as well as reduced sensitivity to other measurands, be they physical or chemical is important. Many conventional chemical sensors, such as for toxic gases or environmental pollutants are inadequate to deal with the demands of meeting legislative requirements or long term, in situ operation – many current techniques use sampling techniques which are inherently prone to error. This project seeks to use synthetic chemical techniques to create new coatings which can be bound to optical fibre, to create sensors which can detect a number of toxic heavy metals, such as mercury and cadmium, especially in soil samples. The aim is for a fibre sensor system that can be distributed over several kilometres in length and monitor these toxic substances whether they are underground or on the surface. The project is supported by the EU through the POLLINS project and is undertaken with partners across Europe who are involved.

Fibre optic based sensors for security and safety applications

Professors Tong Sun and K T V Grattan

Enhanced security, both personal and societal, is an area of increasing focus and an area where it is clear that new techniques are needed for better monitoring. This project focuses on one aspect of such security through the development of sensors for the detection of illicit drugs in society. The work seeks to develop a fibre optic sensor that is reliable and accurate, that can be used in the field and that is capable of providing selective measurement of cocaine, in the presence of a number of ‘cutting agents’ that are widely used. The sensor development will focus on the synthesis or suitable coating using molecular imprinted polymer techniques to provide that selectivity and yet allow for a light weight, rapid response and secure device. The work is supported by the Home Office in the UK.

Silicon Photonics

Professor B M A Rahman

With the rapid development of silicon CMOS technology for semiconductor industries, there is significant research interests to develop silicon photonics. The large index contrast allows sub-micron size waveguides and very compact bends, and these properties can be exploited to increase functionality, reliability of a photonics chip and also reduce the cost. However, designs of silicon photonic devices are also challenging as modes are fully hybrid and require very fine spatial resolution for their simulations. The Photonics Modelling Group has developed fully-vectorial rigorous numerical methods for photonic devices using computationally efficient finite element method and has already reported designs of silicon-based polarization splitters, polarization rotators, slots waveguides, and bio-sensors. New PhD students are sought to continue work on the development of slot waveguides, high-speed modulators, polarization diversity designs, more efficient solar cells and improved coupler designs in silicon.

Nonlinear Photonics

Professors B M A Rahman and K T V Grattan

The minute nonlinear properties of optical materials are exploited to design exotic photonic devices. The Photonics Modelling Group has developed fully-vectorial rigorous numerical methods for photonic devices using computationally efficient finite element method and has already reported designs of second harmonic generations, high-speed modulators, supercontinuum generations and stimulated Brillion scattering in optical waveguides. New PhD students are sought to extend these works for the development signal generation in mid-infrared and THz frequency regions and development of better distributed SBS sensors.

Photonic Crystal Fibres

Professor B M A Rahman

The development of low-loss optical fibres has contributed towards the revolution of Photonics. Following that earlier invention another major improvement in optical waveguiding has been the concept of photonic crystal fibres (PCF). We have developed accurate computer codes to analyse such complex microstructures and already reported on the designs of PCFs for both optical and THz wave guidance. We have also reported on the enhancement of modal birefringence by introducing asymemtry, reduction of THz modal loss by introducing porous core, introducing defect-core for sensing applications and a novel concept of quasi-crystal for better control of their spot-size and dispersion properties. We would like to have new PhD students to work on the development of new signal sources by tailoring its dispersion properties and novel sensors.

Non-Invasive Measurement of Cholesterol in Human Blood by Electrical Impedance Technique

Professor S H Khan

The prime topic of the research is to develop theoretical basis, establish proof of principle and build a technology product demonstrator of a novel instrument sensor for non-invasive measurement of total blood cholesterol based on electrical impedance technique. Using detail numerical FE modelling results, an experimental prototype is to be designed and built to validate and refine the FE models and obtain realistic bio-impedance data by experimental studies. This will then act as a prototype sensor sub-system for a novel instrument for non-invasive measurement of blood cholesterol.

Development of High-Speed, Long-Lifetime and Large-Force Electromagnetic Actuators Based on Smart Alloys

Professor S H Khan

This project involves the development of novel electromagnetic (EM) actuator valves based on magnetic shape memory (MSM) smart alloys. The current state-of-the-art, based on EM solenoid technology is ultimately restricted to less than desired lifetime due to inherent mechanical limitations. For further extension of lifetime (10-15 billion cycles), a novel and a step change in the technological solution is needed. To address this issue, the research focuses on the development of conceptually novel actuator valve based on MSM alloys. This would be a major development in an area of smart materials technology that has enormous potential to be used in a wide technology area where high-speed multibillion-cycle lifetime is needed (e.g. bulk food sorting, aerospace, automobile fuel injection, anaesthetic fluid delivery, etc.).

Mathematical Modelling and Design of Current and Voltage Sensors in Non-Conventional Instrument Transformers (NCIT) Using Smart Materials

Professor S H Khan

Instrument transformers are an integral part of power networks for highly accurate and reliable measurement of primary (line) current and voltages. Conventional instrument transformers with traditional current and voltage sensing are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the demands and requirements of modern ‘digital’ power grids, especially smart grids. To address these issues non-conventional instrument transformers (NCIT) have been developed in recent years. This research proposes a novel approach for current measurement in NCIT using a sensor concept based on magnetic shape memory (MSM) smart alloys, which change shape under magnetic field.

The ‘Internet of things’

Dr F Surre

The aim of this project is to explore the research potential around the ‘internet of things’, looking at the fusion of research, enterprise and learning in this environment.