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PhD positions in AI designed metasurfaces for metrology applications

We are looking for two PhD candidates to work on projects focused on the use of AI in designing metasurfaces for optical instrumentation. These projects are aligned with the £5.5m EPSRC grant, ‘Next Generation Metrology Driven by Nanophotonics’ awarded to the Universities of Huddersfield and Southampton. We are looking for applicants with an expected 2:1 degree or above in computer science, mathematics, physics, or a related discipline and with interest in the areas of AI and optical metamaterials/nanophotonics. The closing date for applications is 30th April 2022.

Bursary details: 3 years full time research covering tuition fees and a tax free bursary (stipend) starting at £16,062 for 2022/23 and increasing in line with the EPSRC guidelines for the subsequent years.

Description of the overall project

The overall project brings together leading groups in the UK in the areas of Metrology and Nanotechnology, as well as several industrial partners, to translate the latest advances in nanophotonics, plasmonics and metamaterials research into metrological applications, overcoming existing problems, and seeking to implement new methods and techniques that these new approaches make possible.

Optical metrology (metrology being the science of measurement) plays a vital role in a wide range of research areas and applications from basic science discovery to material processing, medicine, healthcare, energy, manufacturing and engineering. However, the form of current optical instrumentation (e.g. its size and weight) has been a longstanding barrier to its use in many desirable applications, for instance an instrument cannot be used to monitor a manufacturing process if it was to get in the way of it. This is a barrier to developing the type of measurement systems that would enable the smart and autonomous manufacturing processes to be developed that are envisioned to be used in the 'factories of the future', however, such considerations of size and weight are also true for many other applications, e.g. robotic arm mounted instrumentation, surgical applications, space science applications. While traditional methods have only yielded incremental improvements, the advances that have been made in the area of nanophotonics offer a route to achieve a step change to overcome these problems.

One particular class of nanophotonic elements of particular interest to us are metasurfaces. These are surfaces covered with arrays of subwavelength size elements which provide exquisite control of the light as it passes through them. We can thus manipulate light in a manner akin to traditional refractive elements but without the need to use large blocks of material such as glass to achieve the effect, leading to great savings in terms of size and weight, and we can even combine the effects of several elements into a single metasurface. This is a route by which ultracompact and lightweight instrumentation optical instrumentation could be developed, and opens up the possibility of developing novel measurement techniques that go beyond what is currently achievable. With the impressive developments in this field over the last few years, the technology is reaching a point where it is ready to transition from lab-based demonstrators to real world applications, something that we plan to do here.

While the roles advertised here are situated at the University of Huddersfield, the programme will involve close collaboration with our partners at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre, and so the applicant should be comfortable working in a team environment in order to contribute to a larger project.

Available PhD areas

AI designed robust-Metasurfaces for future manufacturing applications
project reference: EPSRC_2022_18

While there are some simple design methods for basic metasurfaces, these often involve creating arrays of simple structures and only varying one or two parameters. For example, we can control the phase of light as it passes through the surface by using arrays of pillars with a fixed height and spacing, but whose diameter varies depending on the phase delay we want. While these are suitable for some applications, if we wish to gain more control over the light, e.g. we want to define the behavior over a wide range of incident wavelengths of light, we need to use more complex structures on the surface. This does mean that we need to vary more parameters that define the structures, and the problem rapidly becomes one that is too large to easily solve in a reasonable amount of time. The project will investigate AI approaches to search of the parameter space to select the nanostructures and generate these surfaces, with a particular aim being the development of metasurfaces whose performance is as stable as possible when subjected to environmental changes.

Multi-metasurface optical instrumentation designed using AI approaches
project reference: EPSRC_2022_09

While a single metasurface allows the precise manipulation of light at a plane in space, this is only sufficient to perform a limited number of operations. In other cases multiple metasurfaces are required to manipulate the light. The most trivial example of this would be a beam expander, for instance if we take a beam of collimated light, i.e. one whose beam width is neither shrinking or growing, we can use a single surface to create an expanding or contracting beam however we need a second surface further along the beam to return it to a collimated state after the correct beam size is reached. In reality we would want to perform more complex operations, but the point is the same. If we just define the light that we put into the system and the light that we get out there may be numerous ways in which this effect can be arrived at. This does however lead to questions such as how we determine the best way that the optical manipulations should be divided between the surfaces in order to create the best performing, most stable and easiest to produce sets of surfaces. This is an optimization problem of the type that AI approaches have been shown to have some success with, and this project will look to adapt these methods for this task.

Formal applications and informal inquires

If you are interested in further details regarding the above projects informally, you can contact Dr Andrew Henning at a.henning "at", or by phone on 01484 257127.

Formal applications:

Completed forms, including all relevant documents should be submitted via-email to pgrscholarships "at"

Due to the funding route, we are afraid that the call is open to UK Applicants only. More details can be found at

About the research groups

The Centre of Precision Technologies, Huddersfield

The Centre for Precision Technologies (CPT) is a centre of excellence for collaborative metrology solving real-world manufacturing problems through cutting edge metrology research in precision engineering, maintaining strong industrial connections with >100 companies. Its research covers the areas of optical sensors/instruments, mathematics for metrology, machine-tool and surface/geometric metrology.

At the forefront of creating new measurement techniques, we apply novel techniques to real world problems. Highly innovative research and strong links with industry resulted in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) designating the CPT as a National Centre of Excellence in Advanced Metrology in 2011. Building on this success, CPT was awarded a £10 million EPSRC grant to create a Future Manufacturing Research Hub in 2017. Headed by Professor Dame Xiang Jiang, the Future Metrology Hub’s focus is to transform the UK’s manufacturing performance by delivering significant improvements in the speed, accuracy and cost of measurement. The CPT was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary prize in 2021.

The Centre for Planning, Autonomy and Representation of Knowledge, Huddersfield

The Centre for Planning, Autonomy and Representation of Knowledge (PARK) covers research across the Artificial Intelligence spectrum. We are interested in solving foundational problems such as learning and reasoning with large amounts of data, automated learning and engineering of action knowledge for input to plan generation engines. We are currently applying our AI expertise to the areas of autonomy, transport, machine calibration, health informatics and ambient intelligence. We have strategic partnerships with external bodies like the National Health Service, Kirklees Council, Transport for Greater Manchester, and British Telecom. Our research is supported by agencies such UKRI, European Commission, NIHR, and Research England, as well as through direct research contracts with organisations and local industry.

Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), Southampton

The ORC is the UK’s largest and one of the world’s leading photonics research institutes, with the ORC’s Nanophotonics & Metamaterials group being recognised for setting and leading the international agenda in its field. In 2017, the UoS received a Queen's Anniversary Prize for decades of innovative leadership in the field for “Innovations in photonics that enhance the global fibre internet, laser manufacturing, next generation computing and new optical technologies”