Maximising usage of Chameleon Ultra II laser system

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


The Chameleon Ultra II system delivers nanojoule optical pulses at 80 MHz repetition rate and covers a tunable wavelength range from 350nm to 4000nm using a variety of outputs. The system currently enables a range of experimental research activities in the field of ultrafast nanophotonics, which includes the spectroscopy of nanoscale photonic elements such as plasmonic nanoantennas, integrated photonic waveguides and novel nanomaterials. The laboratory brings together a wealth of expertise in experimental nanophotonics which has been developed over a number of years by the PI and which includes microscopy and spectroscopy of individual nano-objects (nanoparticles, nanoantennas) with sizes in the range 10-1000nm, pump-probe techniques and integrated photonics characterisation. The group has recently developed a new characterisation tool of photonic chips using an Ultrafast Photomodulation Spectroscopy technique. This collection of capabilities is unique in the UK and would be of interested for a range of users working in the area of photonics and nanostructures. This project aims to open up the ultrafast laser equipment for users who currently do not have access to comparable capabilities in their own laboratory. Research services will be provided by a research associate who will actively support users in setting up ultrafast optical experiments.

Planned Impact

The access to equipment for users is additional to the existing grant portfolio of EPSRC and has the potential to augment impacts resulting from funded research projects. This will include the potential of additional studies underpinning new materials and devices fabricated in other projects, with examples in battery technology (EP/N024303/1) and silicon / germanium integrated photonics (EP/L00044X/1). The knowledge generated by ultrafast laser experiments will allow rational design of improved structures and would result in the enhancement of performance, which could significantly increase the impact of these projects on society in prosperity outcomes such as Connected Nation and Resilient Nation. Our Pathways to Impact include periodic workshops presenting an overview of the output of user activities. Evaluation of impact and outcomes generated by the user base will be conducted to measure the effect that the equipment sharing has on society. Outcomes will be publicised through a number of channels both within the University and externally to the broader community and press. In addition, the grant will provide substantial enhancement of the expertise and skills of users and their research staff, who will receive training and will be exposed to research involving cutting edge laser techniques which will increase their value to society.


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Description The award aimed to enable access for users to an ultrafast laser system with the support of a research fellow. In the first year of the project we have engaged with a number of different users. Part of these activities involve photonic chips where light is sent through waveguides made from silicon. Our pump and probe setup is able to interrogate where the light is on the chip, which has been successfully used to map out structures and test their performance. In a parallel line of work, we have engaged with new experiments investigating the nanometer scale motion produced by optical metasurfaces when excited using pulsed light. In the second year of the project we have engaged mainly with a number of new projects in the area of photonic metamaterials, where new experiments studying the second harmonic generation from metasurfaces have been set up. We have been significantly affected by the restrictions put in place resulting from Covid-19, which meant we could not have external users in our laboratory, could provide no training to new users, and only one person could work at a time, which meant that the research fellow had to do all the work by himself. Despite these limitations, we have conducted new experiments investigating the vibriational modes of silicon carbide metasurfaes, as well as the harmonic generation in silicon photonic lattices. Delays in experimentation mean that some of this work is still ongoing.
Exploitation Route We expect that our tools for the spectroscopy of photonic chips could become a standard tool for industrial wafer-scale testing. For this purpose, we need to translate the work done in the research laboratory to a system that can be integrated with standard probe stations. The work on metasurfaces is being continued and forms the basis of new grant applications.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Title Ultrafast photomodulation spectroscopy of photonic integrated circuits 
Description A unique home-built instrument has been developed that allows ultrafast pump-probe spectroscopy of photonic integrated circuits. The instrument is referred to as the Ultrafast Photomodulation Spectroscopy or UPMS technique. In short, light is coupled into the photonic circuit using single-mode fibres and on-chip grating couplers. Typically this would be telecom light around 1550nm, but in principle any wavelength accessible by the laser system would be suitable with appropriate fibres. A second laser output is focused onto the circuit from the top using a scanning microscope objective. The setup allows mapping of the flow of light in the chip both in space, time, and frequency, thus producing hyperspectral datasets for full characterisation of the integrated optical components. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The technique is still in the research phase and we are anticipating impact in coming years as we further developed the technique. It has been tested on a range of devices from the UK Cornerstone Silicon Photonics foundry. Also it has been developed for use in combination with laser annealing of Ge-implanted waveguides.