Jack Radford

University of Glasgow

Sensing hidden and invisible environments

The recent development of single photon counting technology for the detection or imaging at extremely low light levels and quantum sensing applications, has also opened a route to novel sensing capabilities. A key advantage of single photon sensing that will be exploited in this project is the ability to precisely time the arrival of the photon on the detector. This has been used in LIDAR systems where the time-of-flight of light from a laser, to an object and back again provides precise (sub-mm) precision in the distance and even shape of the object. This concept can be extended to include multiple reflections and therefore detect and locate objects, even humans, that are hidden by a wall.

The same technology can also be used to detect extremely small, nanometre-scale vibrations from rigid surfaces, e.g. a wall, a cell phone or skin. By shining a laser onto the surface, single photon cameras can pick up vibrations generated by a variety of sources (a personal talking, a heart beating, music played in the room) that are imprinted onto the reflected beam. This will have a variety of applications such as health monitoring and determination of the mechanical properties of the road surface for the automotive industry.

This field of “single photon sensing” is rapidly gaining momentum and this project will develop some of the pioneering results obtained at UofG to further the next generation of sensors for healthcare, defence and self-driving cars.

Conor Coughlan

University of Glasgow

Short and mid-infrared single photon detectors and arrays for range finding and automotive LIDAR

Time correlated single photon detection enables a photon to be sent and the time it takes to return to be recorded. From this measurement and knowing the speed of light, the distance the photon has travelled can be calculated which is a technique known as rangefinding. There are many applications of rangefinding which include 3D imaging and seeing around corners but also it is a key technology for the navigation of autonomous vehicles so they do not bump into objects around them. Rangefinders are also important for road vehicles and one major application in the automotive industry is for sensors to determine if a car might crash so that the driver can be warned or preventative measures can be undertaken. The technology could also be used in digital and mobile phone cameras for autofocusing.
This project aims to develop the key device required for rangefinding at the important eye-safe wavelengths of 1.55 µm but also investigate longer wavelengths where the technology could be used for direct gas identification and imaging. The project will involve designing Ge and GeSn materials on a silicon substrate as the absorber layers for single photon detectors before fabricating a range of different single photon detectors and then testing them. At present all room temperature commercially available single photon detectors at this wavelength rely on expensive InGaAs technology which is too expensive for consumer markets and has US export controls. This project is aiming to develop much cheaper technology on a silicon platform that could be mass produced in silicon foundries allowing large arrays to be produced.
The student should have an undergraduate degree in Physics, Electrical and Electronic Engineering or an equivalent degree. They will design and model devices and be working in the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre to fabricate the devices before testing the photodetectors. The project is in collaboration with the companies Optocap and IQE as part of an InnovateUK project

Ciaran Lennon

University of Glasgow

Atomic Layer Deposition for Superconducting Quantum Technologies

Quantum Technologies are poised to transform sensing, communications and computing in the 21st century. Superconducting materials will play an important role in this revolution. This project offers the opportunity to develop underpinning materials and techniques in close collaboration with our industry partner Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology. Your task will be to optimize superconducting thin film growth via Atomic Layer Deposition, characterize thin film properties at ultralow temperatures and implement these films in advanced superconducting devices and circuits. You will become an expert in the very latest techniques in this fast moving field. This project is an ideal opportunity for an ambitious and motivated student with a background in engineering, physics or materials science.

Matthew Smith

University of Glasgow

Innovative Rheology (i-Rheo) for material characterization and diagnostics

Rheological studies underpin the design and the production of most of the industrial processed materials, including oil derivatives, drugs and foodstuff. However, despite the deep knowledge of the theoretical framework underpinning this field of research, rheological techniques have rarely been fully exploited as either diagnostic methods or Point-of-Care devices. The aim of this PhD project is to develop a new set of rheological methods and devices for measuring the mechanical properties of (biological) liquids by using only a ‘droplet’ of sample volume, and to explore their application as new diagnostic and Point-of-Care devices for blood diseases.

Oliver Higgins

University of Glasgow

New Medical Diagnostic Devices using Mobile Phones

Point-of-care medical testing enables patients to obtain diagnostic results that inform clinical treatment, without visiting a specialist healthcare. Within the developed world this includes “bathroom testing” (eg pregnacy or sexual health) or home management of diseases (eg diabetes). In low and medium income countries (LMIC), the paradigm enables infectious disease testing “in-the-field” in rural areas where there is no specialized access to healthcare professionals. In either case the outcome is the same, namely new technology enabling timely and informed treatment and delivering healthcare benefits without direct access to clinical facilities.

Since their invention in 1973, mobile phones have become ubiquitous with >4.6b unique users (78% of subscriptions are in LMICs). Modern smartphones have ~14 built-in sensors including proximity, pressure, gyroscope as well as heart rate (used for the delivery of healthcare through m-health). They now also offer an attractive platform for point-of-care medical diagnostics – providing a rechargeable battery, a high resolution camera for imaging, a CPU for processing data and a means of transmitting results (to enable “decision-support” from experts or expert systems).

Richard Walker

University of Glasgow

Field testing a MEMS gravimeter

Over the last 3.5 years researchers at the University of Glasgow (School of Physics & Astronomy and School of Electrical & Nanoscale Engineering) have been developing a MEMS gravimeter. The device has already shown sufficient sensitivity and stability to make a first measurement of the earth tides; changes in the local acceleration of gravity caused by the elastic deformation of the earth, originating from the tidal potential of the moon and sun.
This project will perform field trials of the MEMS gravimeter and comparison tests with commercial instruments. Particular areas of research will focus on thermal control of the miniaturised package via a Peltier heater/cooler and robustness testing (field trials/shake tests) to determine the cumulative failure statistics of the device and techniques to improve robustness (e.g. development of limit stops and locking mechanisms).

Andrew Earle

University of Glasgow

Interferometry techniques for the ESA L3 mission that will probe the gravitational universe

LISA – the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna – will be the European Space Agency’s third Large-class mission in its Cosmic Vision program and will become the world’s first ever space-based gravitational wave observatory.
Capitalising on the Glasgow success in the LISA Pathfinder mission, the UK Space Agency recently committed substantial resources to a joint Glasgow/UK-ATC team to cover the first phase of development of the optical system for LISA. The Agency has agreed that UK provision of the optical bench subsystem will form the main UK hardware contribution to the mission.

The PhD research project will focus on developing various techniques which are essential for the final design and implementation of the overall LISA optical system. Key topics include: development of analysis methods to determine the impact of stray light on the science measurement; investigations into the design and development of ultra-stable laser beam fibre couplers, and other optical systems suitable for LISA; development of alignment and displacement sensors and techniques which are capable of achieving the ultra-high precision required for the build and operation of the LISA optical metrology system.

Ian Bennett-Wright

University of Edinburgh

Using hydrogels to produce microelectrode sensors

Our aim is to prepare sensors which resist bio-fouling by directly preparing hydrogels on nanoelectrode array surface. We have recently developed a method of using an electrochemical approach to directly prepare gels on to an electrode surface, where the gel dimensions and porosity are directly controlled by the current applied to, and the diffusion flux at nanoelectrode and microelectrode arrays. Our self-assembled gels are fundamentally different to typical polymeric gels and our approach also allows us to prepare multi-component systems, allowing us to control the chemistry of the gels, as well as the porosity and diffusion rates through the gels. The gels resist bio-fouling, albeit outside the biologically most relevant range (at pH 4) for our proof-of-principle data.

The aim of this project is to translate the above into fundamental understanding and systematic development which will inform the development of enhanced biosensors. The student will synthesise materials that gel at physiological pH on our in-house microfabricated electrochemical arrays, determine the structure property relationships by electrochemical, optical imaging and rheological methods, and use this work to inform the preparation and characterisation of the performance of enhanced biosensor systems. The student will work both in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and acquire multidisciplinary skills and training including electrochemistry, hydrogel formation and characterisation, rheological and imaging methods microfabrication (Engineering) and biosensor production and characterisation.

Mark Evans

University of Edinburgh

A Wearable Low Power Radio Frequency Head Imaging Device for Medical Diagnostics and Monitoring.

Microwave imaging using Antenna based systems for medical applications was first introduced for breast cancer detection. Over the last two decades, many research, including the group in Edinburgh, have reported successful detection of breast cancer either through simulations or experiments using artificial breast. A clinical testing was also recently reported. The difference in dielectric constant and conductivity between healthy and malignant tissue caused the reflected electromagnetic wave to vary in their magnitude and phase. Due to these findings, the use of ultra-wideband system was extended towards head imaging and diagnostics by the group in Edinburgh. In this research, a wearable device made up of flexible ultra-wideband antenna array system together with a dielectric absorber will be investigated. The proposed wearable device aims to provide a constant monitoring of people’s health condition, especially those under risk. This device could be worn by patients with stroke or cancer history as well as people involved in high risk sports. By identifying those diseases earlier, proper treatments could be given. Several fabrication technologies for antenna/sensor fabrication will be explored such as 3-D printing and conductive inkjet printing technologies in addition to commonly used photolithography techniques. Antenna design would have to meet several requirements such as ultra-wideband characteristic, being flexible and small to be integrated into a wearable device. As for data acquisition, two methods will be proposed. These will based on measurement and characterisation of reflection (S11) and transmission coefficients (S21).

Salva Barranco Cárceles

University of Edinburgh

Flat panel field-emitter source array for low-dose 3-D Medical Imagain by Digital Tomosynthesis

We are looking for a talented, motivated and self-directed graduate in the Physical Sciences or Engineering interested in pursuing a 4-year PhD at the University of Edinburgh. The PhD is in association with Adaptix, an award-winning medical technology company with sites in Oxford and Scotland.

A prestigious studentship is available, funded by the Royal Society and Adaptix. It is linked to a Royal Society Industry Fellow at Adaptix and its purpose is to develop a uniform array of high-flux field emitters for X-ray medical imaging. The research project will require the student to acquire a broad range of background knowledge to communicate and collaborate effectively across disciplines. The successful applicant will develop deep technical knowledge of silicon micromachining and device microfabrication in a semiconductor-grade cleanroom setting. They will also be involved in process transfer from an R&D environment to manufacturing. These skills are highly valued for future career prospects. The student will develop cutting edge technology which will revolutionise healthcare options for millions and help Adaptix to disrupt the medical imaging industry.

Your scientific curiosity and inventiveness will be exercised daily. You will register for a full-time PhD at the University of Edinburgh (UoE), and will be supervised jointly by academic and industry supervisors (respectively Prof. Ian Underwood, School of Engineering and Dr. Aquila Mavalankar, Adaptix Ltd). Unusually, the 4-year project will be carried out on several sites, with the first two years focussed on training and process development in the Scottish Microelectronics Centre at the UoE, then the final two years on process transfer, optimisation and deployment with the Adaptix R&D team at the Science and Technology Facilities Campus in Oxfordshire. This will give you an unrivalled opportunity to conduct research at a world-class university, and to experience the fast-paced delivery-oriented environment of an ambitious early-stage technology company.

Alix Bailie

University of Edinburgh

Single‐molecule fluorescence sensing of DNA enzyme activity, using pulse‐shaped multiphoton excitation

DNA-modifying enzymes are becoming increasingly important in genetic medicine. DNA nucleases are used in genome editing, and new types of cancer therapy are being developed in which drugs target the activity of specific DNA-modifying enzymes, such as DNA methylases. The development and effective use of such gene-based therapies demands the specific and sensitive detection of the activities of these enzymes. Currently available methods measure the amount rather than activities or functionalities of enzymes. However, it is the activities, not the quantities per se of enzymes that dictate their biological functions.
In principle, an ideal approach to the sensing of DNA enzyme activity is the use of responsive fluorescent nucleobase analogues which can be inserted into a specific DNA sequence (in place of a natural base), without perturbing the natural DNA structure, and whose fluorescent properties change in response to enzyme binding. While a number of such base analogues exist, their fluorescence properties are not suitable for this application: they require UV excitation, resulting in high levels of background fluorescence in biological samples, and their fluorescence quantum yields, when incorporated in DNA, are too low for sensitive detection.
Very recently, we have made a significant breakthrough in the development of new fluorescent base analogues with exceptionally bright fluorescence under multiphoton excitation. Building on this, we plan to develop and apply a new, ultrasensitive DNA-enzyme sensing modality, using pulse-shaped, near-infrared, multiphoton excitation, together with single-molecule fluorescence detection techniques. The use of multiphoton excitation largely eliminates background fluorescence and avoids photobleaching, and, as we have recently shown, the use of a broadband Ti:sapphire laser with pulse shaping can produce an order of magnitude increase in the sensitivity and signal to background ratio. On the basis of recent, promising results, we anticipate that, by the end of the project, we should be able to detect DNA enzyme activity at the single-molecule level. As well as demonstrating the ultimate detection sensitivity, this would be very significant in enabling the use of single molecule spectroscopy to study in detail the molecular mechanisms of DNA modifying enzymes, to underpin the development of new epigenetic diagnostic and treatment regimes.