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Emergent Photonics Research Centre opens at Loughborough University…

13 Jun 2024

…and Southampton secures £4.6M EPSRC grant to develop X-ray microscope.

Loughborough University, in the UK, has launched a new research centre “dedicated to revolutionizing science and technology through photonics”.

The Emergent Photonics Research Centre is a 600 m2 facility, home to a team of researchers focused on advancing ultra-fast nonlinear optics and complexity, and creating technologies with applications ranging from quantum physics to biology.

The Center’s research agenda includes developing photonic technologies, such as microcombs, to create accurate, portable devices for positioning, timing, and navigation. These devices will operate independently of GPS infrastructure.

Another research priority is using terahertz waves to develop novel technologies. The Emergent Photonics Research team is already developing a terahertz wave camera capable of imaging microscopic items hidden inside 3D objects, with potential applications in medical diagnostics, security, and materials research.

Ongoing research projects are also exploring how artificial intelligence can be used to enhance control of photonic systems and how such systems can be used as fast and efficient deep-learning networks, a type of artificial intelligence modelled after the human brain’s structure.

‘Singular vision’

At an opening ceremony on Tuesday 11 June, academics and representatives from major UK funders, research councils, and research entities enjoyed a firsthand look at the center’s facilities and a series of presentations.

Center Director, Professor Marco Peccianti, announced, “The Emergent Photonics Research Centre has a singular vision: to harness the transformative power of Photonic Complexity to explore and manipulate natural phenomena, creating groundbreaking technologies in the process.

“We are inviting the global scientific community to join us at the frontier of discovery. We aim to become an incubator for innovation, where scholars, industry experts, and institutions from around the world can collaborate on pioneering research that bridges the gaps between disparate scientific domains.”

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Chancellor and President of Loughborough University, commented, “The Emergent Photonics Research Centre represents a significant advancement in the innovative work being done in the field of photonics in the UK. The Centre’s research will deepen our understanding of nature’s complexities and drive the development of groundbreaking technologies with far-reaching impacts across multiple fields.”

Professor Claudia Eberlein, Dean of the School of Science, added: “Loughborough has made a major investment in establishing this large and highly sophisticated center in order to be at the forefront of photonics developments. Projects that have already started range from fundamental metrology to advances in communications technology and novel pathways of investigating living organisms.”

Southampton secures grant to build an X-Ray microscope

The University of Southampton has secured a £4.6 million ($5.9 million) strategic equipment grant to pioneer the development of an innovative X-ray microscope from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Led by Professor Jeremy Frey from the School of Chemistry and bolstered by the expertise of Dr. Bill Brocklesby from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), this project is also supported by the Rosalind Franklin Institute and the UK Central Laser Facility (CLF).

Over the next four years, this grant will fund the construction of an X-ray microscope, marking a significant departure from traditional light-based microscopy techniques. Once completed, the microscope will be housed in the Research Complex at Harwell.

Dr. Brocklesby commented, “This grant will allow us to apply the techniques that we’ve developed since this collaboration was started by the ‘Basic Technologies’ program, two decades ago.”

Prof Frey added, “The grant is a good example of the collaboration between the University and the Harwell Campus. The Harwell site is ideal for the instrument development because of the synergies with the imaging technologies available at the RFI, Diamond, ISIS and the CLF alongside the extensive computational facilities.”

Professor Angus Kirkland, Science Director for Correlated Imaging at the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said, “This project is exactly what the Rosalind was set up to enable – it will create the order of magnitude increase in both spatial resolution and data acquisition time, which will enable the imaging of hydrated samples with minimal sample damage. We are looking forward to working with colleagues at University of Southampton, the Central Laser Facility, and the Research Complex at Harwell to make this instrument a reality.”

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