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Postgraduate research project

Silicon photonics for space optics technologies

Competition funded View fees and funding
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree
View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

Space is a new but inevitable frontier for Silicon Photonics technologies. The “New Space economy” has drastically lowered satellite launch costs such that constellations of communications satellites have become a reality, and small satellites for imaging, environmental monitoring, and global positioning are proliferating. The surge in satellite traffic will demand a corresponding surge in satellite data communications capacity.

Satellite based free-space optical (FSO) communications links will come online over the next few years to complement existing radio frequency links, to enhance the bandwidth, power efficiency, and security of satellite communications. All of the “Prime” aerospace contractors are in the process of demonstrating initial FSO systems, using fibre and bulk optics components. Low size, weight, and power consumption are critical for all space technologies, and especially for small satellite payloads. With Silicon Photonics whole optical systems or subsystems can be integrated onto single chips, giving huge advantages in each of these metrics, and giving resilience to vibrations.

This PhD project will focus on the development of new Silicon Photonic chips for space optics applications, initially exploring which are the areas in which Silicon Photonics can make the highest impact. Applications are anticipated in free-space communications, intrasatellite optical interconnects (just as silicon photonic interconnects have found use in data centres worldwide); RF-over-fibre transceivers for RF satellite communications systems; integrated spectrometers for space science and planetary exploration, and LIDAR for 3D vision (e.g. in docking systems). For example, NASA has recently sent a Silicon Photonic near-IR spectrometer into space and has identified Silicon Photonics as a key future space optics technology. The most exciting applications will be explored by optical & electronic design, cleanroom fabrication, and optoelectronic characterisation of the proposed chips.

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a background in electronics, physics or photonics. You would join a cutting-edge research group in the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), University of Southampton, and work in our state-of-the-art cleanroom facilities and photonic device characterisation laboratories. You would work in cooperation with a postdoctoral researcher on a UK Space Agency funded project developing Silicon Photonic chips for pointing laser beams in satellite optical communication links, and be part of the >40 strong Silicon Photonics group at the ORC.

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