Photonics and Quantum Sciences: News Archive
Our research is regularly reported in Scientific Journals and at National and International conferences, but many items also reach the general media! Here we archive Photonics and Quantum Sciences news. Please see our main news page for up-to-date news items.
October 2012: Scottish scientists secure 3 million euro for “new-frontier” research
Researchers will mimic “black holes” and create quantum information in laboratories:
Heriot-Watt University scientists have been awarded three million euros (2.35 million pounds sterling) to investigate new areas of quantum physics, looking at how energy and matter interact in a bid to revolutionise information and communication. The two researchers, Dr Brian Gerardot and Dr Daniele Faccio at Heriot-Watt’s Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences, will conduct research over the next five years after being awarded funds from the prestigious European Research Council (ERC). Both projects will further understanding of how different conditions affect particles. The outcomes will add to the growing body of knowledge in nanotechnology.
Professor Alan Miller, Deputy Principal (Research & Knowledge Transfer), said, “To secure two awards from such a competitive funding scheme run by the European Research Council confirms the international competitiveness of research carried out at Heriot-Watt. “The scale of the funding for these two research programmes over five years gives these experts the scope to really delve into some of the most complex and fundamental questions about how energy and matter interact.”
Dr Daniele Faccio will mimic black hole conditions (where space is distorted and “sucked in”) in his laboratory, using intense laser pulses. He will then examine how light behaves when it travels through a medium (e.g. air or space) that is moving at the speed of light. This builds on Dr Faccio’s earlier work which sought to establish evidence of Hawking’s radiation (see articles from The Economist and Wired) – the theory that black holes lose energy and mass over time, meaning they would eventually disappear.
Dr Gerardot will test and control how single photons and electrons (both elementary particles) interact with each other in computer chips. Dr Gerardot has proposed a new type of semiconductor device architecture that can create, transmit, receive, and process information on a large scale, paving the way for widespread use in, for instance, providing communications systems that are much faster and more secure than existing systems.
The ERC, part of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), is the first pan-European funding agency for investigator-driven frontier research designed to support the very best, truly creative scientists, scholars and engineers in going beyond established frontiers of knowledge and the boundaries of disciplines.
August 2012: Dr Jonathan Shephard selected as first member of EPSRC forum in Manufacturing Research
Dr Jonathan Shephard, Lecturer in the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences has been selected to join the new Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) launched this initiative as part of the Manufacturing the Future theme. The new forum is comprised of twenty promising early career academics, all of whom have ambitions to shape the future UK manufacturing research agenda.
Forum membership was determined after an open application and peer review process, which saw almost seventy applicants whittled down to a final list of twenty candidates.
Dr. Derek Gillespie, Portfolio Manager EPSRC Manufacturing the Future, said, “The Forum is designed to bring together early career academics who have the potential to become future leaders in fields of UK manufacturing research. By using the Forum, we hope we can help the members grow their professional network to include other academics from a diverse range of research fields, representatives of UK manufacturing industries, and a range of relevant policy and decision makers”.
Dr Shephard 's research in Applied Optics and Photonics is targeted in number of areas: Developing novel optical fibres for flexible high power laser delivery, Technologies for integrating lasers into manufacturing processes and novel robotic devices, Adaptive optics to tailor light to specific industrial applications, Optical non destructive testing and, Novel laser processes for medicine. The emphasis is on developing multidisciplinary links with academic and industrial partners and medical end users. Since 2003 he has been an integral member of the Applied Optics and Photonics Group at Heriot-Watt.
For more information please contact Dr Jonathan Shephard.
July 2012: The Olympic torch - on the nanoscale
Two nano-olympic torch images: the figure on the left is an actual image taken by a scanning electron microscope at Heriot-Watt University. The figure on the the right is a false colour image.
As excitement builds towards the opening of the 2012 London Olympic Games on 27th July, researchers at Heriot-Watt University have created an iconic symbol of the Olympics - on the nanoscale. Peter Kremer, a research student in the Quantum Photonics Laboratory at Heriot-Watt University created this miniature Olympic torch. This novel nanostructure was fabricated in the newly commissioned nanofabrication facility at Heriot-Watt, funded through a Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA) initiative. The inverted cone is 9 micrometres long and tapers down from a diameter of 1,600 nanometres at the top to 80 nanometres at the base: approximately 100,000 times smaller than the 2012 Olympic torch itself.
‘My PhD project is to fabricate and characterize such a tapered nanowire with a semiconductor quantum dot embedded near the bottom’ Peter explains.
‘Quantum dots are tiny regions of semiconductor that can effectively confine single electrons and exhibit quantum characteristics similar to an atom. Our design greatly enhances the collection efficiency of individual packets of light known as photons which are emitted by the quantum dot. Such single photon sources are essential for emerging applications such as quantum cryptography and computing. We aim to one day break the world record for the most efficient single photon source’.
For more information please contact the head of the Quantum Photonics Laboratory, Dr Brian Gerardot.
November 2011: Funding for Artificial Electromagnetism research
The Quantum Optics and Cold Atoms group led by Patrik Öhberg has been awarded £384k from EPSRC for research into Artificial Electromagnetism.
Ultracold atoms show exotic dynamics such as spin-orbit coupling and strong correlations.
In 1982 Richard Feynman introduced the concept of a quantum emulator, as a possibility to circumvent the difficulty of simulating quantum physics with classical computers. His idea, based on the universality of quantum mechanics, was to use one controllable device to simulate other systems of interest. Nowadays Feynman's intuition is being implemented in various setups and among them ultracold gases of neutral atoms play a central role. The only missing ingredient for the charge neutral gas is the equivalent of orbital magnetism which would allow for the simulation of phenomena such as the Quantum Hall effect. The concept of optically induced artificial electromagnetism and gauge fields gets around this problem. This research programme, which includes a three year postdoc position, will investigate and stretch our understanding of matter and its constituents at the most fundamental level. It will deal with concepts ranging from the ultracold to the ultrahot; concepts from low temperature condensed matter physics and high energy physics with its description of interactions between elementary particles. The artificial gauge potentials can be made strong, they can be made inhomogeneous, and can have a multi dimensional matrix form. One can therefore access regimes which are not easily reached in conventional condensed matter systems and high energy physics.
For more information please contact Dr Patrik Öhberg.
September 2011: Quantum research makes front page of Nature Physics
Researchers at Heriot-Watt and Glasgow University, part of SUPA, have shown that Nature plays dice with at least 11 faces, using light that looks like pasta spirals! An experiment using light with orbital angular momentum, featured on the cover of the September issue of Nature Physics, has proved that such light indeed posesses high-dimensional quantum entanglement. Such "supercorrelated" quantum states with high entanglement can be useful for ultrasensitive quantum metrology, secure quantum communication, and ultimately for quantum computers.
Cover of September issue of Nature Physics with Heriot-Watt and Glasgow University results making the front page.
Quantum mechanics is a strange theory. It would seem reasonable that if we specify the initial conditions well enough, then we can predict exactly what should happen in any situation. For example, it is very difficult to predict the Scottish weather, but if we knew the exact position and velocity of every air molecule, and same for the clouds, sea etc., then we should in principle be able to predict the weather with certainty. It is only because we cannot possibly collect this sheer volume of data, never mind run the calculations even on a supercomputer, that we can't predict the weather. And same thing for any other process. Or?
Quantum mechanics says that this is fundamentally not the case. It only gives probabilities for events to occur, no matter how well we know the initial conditions. "Quantum weather" is fundamentally unpredictable. Einstein was uncomfortable with this, and famously said "God does not play dice".
This work proves that Nature plays dice with at least 11 faces each. This was achieved by using photons, or particles of light, that twist like pasta spirals, as the "dice". Exactly how the photons twisted was the different "faces" of the "dice". Previously, the record was "dice" with 2 and 3 "faces". Most experiments use the polarisation of light, that is, what direction the electromagnetic field is oscillating in. This gives a die with two faces. But the "twist" this experiment used, just like pasta, comes in inifinitely many shapes, so one can have dice with arbitrarily many faces.
The experiment was done in the lab of Miles Padgett at Glasgow University. Adetunmise Dada and Erika Andersson planned the experiment and analysed the results. Adetunmise Dada, together with Jonathan Leach from Glasgow University, performed the experimental work at Glasgow University in the Lab of Miles Padgett.
August 2011: Physics undergraduate receives award.
Heriot-Watt Physics student Ross Donaldson has scooped the prize for best presentation at the International Conference of Physics Students in Budapest.
Ross in the Quantum Cryptography Laboratory, August 2011
With over 100 presentations on topics ranging from theoretical particle physics to teaching in physics, Ross described his recent work on Quantum Key Distribution. This work was carried out during his summer internship supervised by Prof. Gerald Buller.
Ross believes making his topic accessible to a wide audiences was important for his success: “I made my presentation interactive using animations to explain trickier concepts and I tried to deliver it at a level that all undergraduates could follow, which I think was key to winning the best presentation award.” Ross is about to start his fourth year of his MPhys course.
July 2011: SU2P Fellowships to Stanford University awarded to Heriot-Watt Researchers
Two Heriot-Watt researchers, Chandra Mouli Natarajan and Tobi Lamour, have been awarded prestigious entrepreneurial fellowships to spend one year at Stanford University in California, USA. The SU2P Science Bridges scheme is aimed at strengthening links between Scottish Universities and Stanford in photonics research. This field has produced scientific advances such as the laser, which have become ubiquitous in modern life.
Tobi Lamour and Chandra Mouli Natarajan at Heriot-Watt, July 2011
Both Chandra and Tobi are from the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt. Chandra completed his PhD at Heriot-Watt under the supervision of Dr Robert Hadfield in spring 2011 and will join the group of Professor Yoshihisa Yamamoto to work on quantum memories which could be used to underpin future communication networks. Tobi Lamour is due to complete his PhD with Professor Derryck Reid in autumn 2011, and will join the group of Dr Konstantin Vodopyanov on the generation of light at Terahertz wavelengths using synchronously-pumped optical parametric oscillators. Chandra and Tobi will have the opportunity to return to Scotland at the end of the Fellowship to share their expertise.
The SU2P Science Bridges website: http://www.su2p.com/Home.aspx
March 2011: Physics PhD student wins Young UK Laser Engineer’s Prize
March 2011: Norbert receives his prize from Paul Hilton, outgoing President of the AILU.
Norbert Lorenz, a PhD student at Heriot-Watt University has won the Young Laser Engineer's Prize 2011 for work carried out during his PhD studies on the development of a laser-based process for hermetic packaging of micro-devices, working closely with collaborators GE Aviation Systems.
Norbert, who studies in the Applied Optics and Photonics group in the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, received the award at the Association of Laser Users 2011 meeting in Warrington.
The Prize is designed to help encourage young people in the UK to develop their interests in laser applications. It is awarded to an individual under 30 years of age, for a significant piece of work. The work must be conducted in the UK and have real or potential economic gain for the parent organisation and preferably for the wider industrial laser user community.
“Winning the Young Laser Engineer's Prize 2011 was a very nice and unexpected surprise towards the end of my PhD. I feel honoured that my research was so highly recognised by the Association of Laser Users (AILU).
Furthermore I would like to thank the members of the Applied Optics and Photonics group at Heriot-Watt University for their support during my PhD. Most importantly, I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Duncan Hand for guiding and supervising me throughout the last 3½ years, without him this work would not have been possible.”
This is only the second time a PhD student from Heriot-Watt University has been awarded this prize. The first student was Fraser Dear in 2008.
Heriot-Watt Physics PhD Graduate wins IOP award
Dr Danniel Brunner has won the IOP's Roy Prize, awarded annually for the best nominated thesis in the field of condensed matter and material physics.
For further information about the Roy Prize, and also a list of previous recipients please see the IOP website.
Hawking radiation glimpsed in an artificial black hole
Astrophysical black holes have been predicted to slowly evaporate by emitting a very feeble light that can, however, become extremely violent in the final stage of the black hole evolution. Dr. Faccio (EPS - Physics) and Italian collaborators have recently succeeded in obtaining the first ever, ground-breaking experimental evidence of spontaneous light emission from the analogue of a black hole event horizon recreated in the lab using laser technology.
For further information see the following reviews or contact Daniele Faccio (e-mail email@example.com)
Nobel Prize Winner Professor Klaus von Klitzing tours Heriot-Watt/SUPA nanoscience facility
Heriot-Watt University has just taken delivery of a state-of-the-art electron beam lithography system (funded under a new Scottish Universities Physics Alliance initiative). This instrument (a £0.5M Raith Pioneer system) allows features down to 20 nm width to be patterned on semiconductor chips. A laser interferometer-controlled stage allows nanoscale features to be patterned faithfully over mm areas. Today Nobel Laureate Professor Klaus von Klitzing toured this facility on his visit to Heriot-Watt. ‘This equipment is an essential tool in my present work’ said Professor von Klitzing who is currently director of the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Physics in Stuttgart, Germany. Heriot-Watt researchers Dr Robert Hadfield and Dr Brian Gerardot plan to use this instrument to create advanced nanophotonic structures, in collaboration with partners in academia and industry.
Physics research reported in Nature
Coherent Control of Donor Impurity States in Si (Surrey, UCL, HWU and FELIX) [find out more]
Dr Robert Hadfield delivers superconducting-single photon detector system to UK National Physical Laboratory
Dr Robert Hadfield has delivered a state-of-the-art superconducting-single photon detector system to the UK National Physical Laboratory. This advanced detector system will be used by NPL researchers in quantum metrology and quantum information processing experiments. This work demonstrates the tremendous value of Heriot-Watt physics research to the UK scientific community [read more].
Laser Summer School comes to Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has announced £26,000 of funding to the Ultrafast Nonlinear Optics summer school to be held from 11 - 21 August 2010 at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Branded as SUSSP66, the summer school is the 66th in a series of Physics summer schools co-organised by the Scottish Universities Summer Schools in Physics (SUSSP) charity, which ran its first summer school in 1960... [read more].
SUPA II: Physics Department shares in £48 million investment in Scottish Physics
Heriot-Watt Physics Department is one of eight Scottish physics departments to benefit from the investment of £48 million by the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council and the participating universities for the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, the pooling arrangement of eight Scottish universities committed to sharing resource and expertise in physics research [read more].
Physics research reported in Nature (June 2010): Coherent Control of Donor Impurity States in Si (Surrey, UCL, HWU and FELIX)
Most experimental progress to date in so-called quantum computing has involved atom 'traps' at ultra-low temperatures required to achieve extreme isolation from their environment. It has been shown that a much simpler and more robust system is achievable by substituting donor electrons in semiconductors for the atom traps, with far less stringent requirements. We have demonstrated for the first time coherent control of Rydberg states in phosphorous-doped Si at 4K by observing photon echos and Rabii oscillations utilising the Dutch free electron laser (FELIX) to resonantly pump the 1s - 2p Rydberg transitions. Our work shows that we can prepare coherent mixtures of different orbital states for one of the most common impurities in the most common semiconductor. In particular, these excited states may ultimately be used to control atoms in a quantum gate. The phosphorous atoms can be positioned so that their highly localized ground states do not interact, but their greatly extended excited (2p) states do. In this way one phosphorous atom can be used to control its neighbours, without losing quantum coherence. The interactions are also sufficient to produce entangled atomic states, which are fundamental to the power of quantum computing.
For further information please contact Prof C Pidgeon
Quantum detector system delivered to National Physical Laboratory
The ultimate in optical detection is the ability to detect individual quanta of light - packets of energy known as photons. Single-photon detectors now underpin a host of technologies at the frontiers of science, from new methods of medical imaging to "quantum cryptography", the ultimate in secure communciations.
Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have delivered a state-of-the-art single photon detector system to the UK0s National Physical Laboratory (NPL). This detector system exploits revolutionary superconducting single-photon detector technology, which far outperforms conventional detector types in terms of infrared sensitivity, signal-to-noise and timing resolution. This instrument will enable scientists at NPL to carry out groundbreaking experiments in quantum metrology and quantum information processing, ensuring the UK retains its international lead in these important 21st Century technologies.
This work was carried out by Dr Robert Hadfield a Reader in Physics and Royal Society University Research Fellow at Heriot-Watt University, and Ms Catherine Fitzpatrick, a research engineer who is sponsored by the National Physical Laboratory under the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Photonics Engineering Doctorate scheme. This work demonstrates the tremendous value of close partnerships between Universities and Industry.
Research group website: http://www.phy.hw.ac.uk/resrev/SuperconductingDetectors.htm
NPL website: http://www.npl.co.uk/quantum-phenomena/
Laser Summer School comes to Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council this week announced £26,000 of funding to the Ultrafast Nonlinear Optics summer school to be held from 11 - 21 August 2010 at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Branded as SUSSP66, the summer school is the 66th in a series of Physics summer schools co-organised by the Scottish Universities Summer Schools in Physics (SUSSP) charity, which ran its first summer school in 1960.
The summer school will be hosted in Heriot-Watt's state-of-the-art Postgraduate Centre, and will attract around 100 research students and distinguished lecturers from around the world. Contributors include Professor Tom Baer, the current president of the Optical Society of America, and Dr Thomas Udem, who worked closely with 2005 Nobel Laureate Prof. Theodore Hänsch.
The summer school will cover the science and applications of lasers that produce pulses of light lasting less than one trillionth of a second. Prof. Derryck Reid, Director of SUSSP66, said, "I'm delighted that the EPSRC has chosen to support the School, and in doing so it has recognised the timeliness of this event and the prominence that Scotland now has in this field."
Applications for the summer school close on 31 January 2010.
SUPA II: Physics Department shares in £48 million investment in Scottish Physics
Heriot-Watt Physics is one of eight Scottish physics departments to benefit from the investment of £48 million by the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC) and the participating universities for the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA), the pooling arrangement of eight Scottish universities committed to sharing resource and expertise in physics research.
This is the second investment in SUPA which was set up in 2004. The cash will help fund major developments in Scotland0s research infrastructure and personnel. At Heriot-Watt, these will include investment in a new state-of-the-art nanofabrication facility, including Electron Beam Lithography and Focused Ion Beam facilities. We will also be investing in new academic staff positions, in areas which align with our current research strengths in condensed matter nano-physics and photonics.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop said: "Scotland's universities have a worldwide reputation for excellence in research."
"We need to help them grow that expertise, while also encouraging different institutions to work together to better share their knowledge with each other and with Scotland's business community to help our economy grow and recover from the current downturn."
"This investment will help support those efforts and help us strengthen Scotland's claim as a world leader in research and development, while also delivering practical benefits for the NHS and medical world."
Since its launch in 2004, the pooling partners have established the SUPA Graduate School, attracted high-quality academic staff from around the world to Scotland, increased the volume of physics research in Scotland, and greatly enhanced the quality of Research Assessment Exercise submissions from physics researchers.