EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Photonic Integration and Advanced Data Storage

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics

Abstract

Cloud storage is rapidly growing because we all, as individuals, companies, organisations and governments, rely on data farms filled with large numbers of 'server' computers using hard disk drives (HDDs) to store personal and societal digital information. One server is required for every 600 smartphones or 120 tablet computers, and trends such as Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things are generating yet more new data, so the Cloud will continue to grow rapidly. The Cloud accounted for 25% of storage in 2010 and will account for >60% by 2020. As a result of these trends, the Cloud storage market is growing at 30% p.a. and is expected to be worth nearly $100b by 2022. While almost all personal computing and related electronic devices have migrated to solid state drives (SSD), HDDs are the only viable technology for cloud storage
and a step change in the capacity of HDDs is required.

Due to the limitations of existing magnetic materials, a new technology is needed to increase the density of magnetic data recording beyond the current 1Tb/sq. inch out to well beyond 10Tb/sq. inch and meet the 30% annual growth rate. Heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) has been identified to overcome physical challenges and has now demonstrated proof of principle.

HAMR requires the integration of photonic components including lasers, waveguides and plasmonic antennas within the current magnetic recording head transducer. With a total addressable market (TAM) of 400-600 million hard disk drives p.a. with 3-4 heads per drive, HAMR is projected to require 2+ billion diode lasers p.a. & become the largest single market for laser diodes and photonic integration. HAMR will only be successful if it can be deployed as a low-cost manufacturable technology. Its successful development will therefore drive low-cost photonic integration and plasmonic technology into other industries and applications.

Queen's University Belfast & University of Glasgow co-created CDT PIADS in 2014/15 with 9 companies, and the founding vision of CDT PIADS was to train cohorts of high calibre doctoral research students in the skillsets needed by the data storage & photonics partner-base & the wider UK supply chain. Students are trained in an interdisciplinary environment encompassing five themes of robust semiconductor lasers, planar lightwave circuits, advanced characterisation, plasmonic devices, & materials for high density magnetic storage. By providing high-level scientific & engineering research skills in the challenges of integrating photonics & advanced materials alongside rich & enhanced skills training, graduating doctoral students are equipped to lead & operate at the highest technical levels in cross geographic distributed environments.

In renewal we exploit the opportunity to engage & enhance our programme in collaboration with Science Foundation Ireland & the Irish Photonics Integration Centre with complementary capabilities including packaging & microtransfer printing for materials/device integration. Our training is expanded to include research on computational properties of functional & plasmonic materials and introduce a new programme of professional externally validated leadership training & offering both PhD and EngD routes. All 50 students recruited in renewal will have industry involvement in their programme, whether through direct sponsorship/collaboration or via placements.

Our anchor tenant partner, Seagate Technology, has a major R&D and manufacturing site in the UK. Their need to manufacture of up to 1b p.a. photonic integrated devices at this site gives CDT PIADS a unique opportunity to create an ecosystem for training & research in photonic integration and data storage. The anchor tenant model will bring other companies together who also need the human resource & outcomes of the CDT to meet their skills demands.

Planned Impact

Academic
- The renewal will create 50 doctoral researchers with high level technical abilities and sophisticated managerial, leadership and personal effectiveness skills ready to take up employment in industry (with partners or beyond) or embark on academic careers.
- The programme will foster multidisciplinary perspectives in the cohorts which will allow them to address challenges either in research areas directly aligned to the PIADS CDT or beyond e.g. in ICT, Healthcare Technologies and sensing.
- Through the PIADS ecosystem academic staff and research groups will foster and form new collaborations leading to research outputs and impact, funding proposals and knowledge transfer.
- PIADS will provide career enhancing opportunities for its academic community, from established academics (advancement) to Early Career academics (supervisory experience and building research profile).
- PIADS will influence the delivery of other postgraduate programmes in the Universities by raising standards and expectations of the postgraduate experience through its cohort based training programme.
- The CDT will foster greater institutional collaboration through jointly awarded research degrees.

Industrial
- PIADS will bring together key companies who form a complete UK manufacturing supply chain for HAMR data storage technology.
- PIADS will drive the development and adoption of low-cost heterogeneous photonic integration technology that can be exploited not only in HAMR but also in multiple markets.
- The PIADS anchor tenant model will impact industry in multiple ways e.g. by facilitating co-creation of PhD/EngD projects, providing an ecosystem that links micro businesses and SMEs through to multinationals, and producing highly skilled doctoral researchers to meet recruitment needs for continued growth.

Societal
- PIADS Engagement & Outreach will continue to deliver its extensive programme of public engagement & outreach e.g. participation in European Researchers' Night, the N. Irish and Glasgow Science Festivals, the STEM Ambassador Programme, industry seminars and workshops and networking. These activities allow the cohorts and the public to interact with the science and technology of PIADS while respecting principles of Responsible Research and Innovation.

Economic
- PIADS will allow the industry partners to recruit skilled and qualified staff that support their respective plans for growth.
- PIADS will support UK economic activity in a sector that has 3X the average national productivity per worker.
- PIADS will support Seagate Technology in its plans to incorporate photonic integration into its current products thereby securing the future of some 1400 people in manufacturing and R&D, which contributes around £100M GVA p.a. to the UK economy in one of its most deprived areas.
- PIADS will engender the creation of an indigenous UK supply chain for low cost photonic integration technologies.
- PIADS will support the industrial partners to exploit outcomes related to their future market strategies, facilitating growth opportunities in a variety of sectors e.g. IQE, CST, KNT, Fraunhofer in ICT, Oxford Instruments, Yelo in scientific and engineering instrumentation, and Causeway Sensors and Cirdan Imaging in medical technology.

Publications

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