Optics and Photonics research at the University of Sydney

Optics-related research at the University goes back several decades and it continues to be world leading, as Martijn de Sterke, the Director of IPOS, the Institute for Photonics and Optical Science, explains.

The optics activities at the University of Sydney, particularly the Faculty of Science and the School of Physics date back decades. Early activities in the 1970s and 1980s were associated with the electromagnetic theory of diffraction gratings and composite media and was mostly carried out in Physics.

In the early 1990s this range of activities was extended considerably with the establishment of the Optical Fibre Technology Centre (OFTC), founded by academics in Physics, Chemistry and Electrical Engineering, and which over time evolved into the Australian Photonics CRC. OFTC brought new research activities in optical fibres and fibre gratings.

Together with new activities in nonlinear optics, microwave photonics and photonic crystal fibres, the optics and photonics research at the University led to breakthrough results in these areas and the foundation of numerous spinoff companies.

The next major chapter was the establishment in 2003 of the Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS), an ARC Centre of Excellence. The Centre operated for 15 years and conducted world leading research in optical integration, nonlinear optics, photonic crystals, microwave photonics, sensing and quantum devices.

The current research in optics and photonics spans Physics, Chemistry and Electrical Engineering, and is carried out under the loose umbrella of the Institute for Photonics and Optical Science (IPOS).

Pictured: Testing of an optical chip in one of the IPOS labs

Activities span the full range of theory and experiment, fundamental and applied, and is supported by excellent facilities over several buildings.

Researchers include:

IPOS members have a wide variety of funding sources including the Australian Research Council, the NSW Government (e.g., the NSW Smart Sensing Network), industry and defence organizations in Australia and the USA.

IPOS has fellowship holders from the Australian Research Council and elsewhere, and PhD students from Australia and around the world. It also hosts numerous research students for shorter periods.

The research is supported by excellent facilities including a custom-built cleanroom with rigorous environmental control. It has state-of-the-art facilities for electron beam lithography with feature sizes below 10 nm. It is situated in the Sydney Nanoscience Hub, which is also the headquarters of the University of Sydney Nano Institute (Sydney Nano).

Pictured: PhD student Fiona Wei working on a novel photonics scheme for wavefront sensing.

Other facilities include a draw tower for the fabrication of polymer and low-melting point glass fibres, and nanoplasmonic, microwave photonics, spectroscopy, high-speed optical communications test-bed, astrophotonic instrumentation, and terahertz laboratories.

There is strong internal collaboration, and collaboration with researchers in the region and around the world, and our results have been published in flagship journals such as Nature Photonics and Science.

We encourage you to take the opportunity to discuss your research with our members and to explore possible collaborations or possible fellowship applications. We invite students to explore the opportunities for a PhD at the University of Sydney, or, if they are already engaged in a PhD elsewhere, to carry out part of their research with us at Sydney.


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