Next Generation Metrology Driven by Nanophotonics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Huddersfield
Department Name: Sch of Computing and Engineering


Optical metrology plays a vital role in an astonishing array of important research areas and applications, from basic science discovery to material processing, medicine, healthcare, energy, manufacturing and engineering. Optical metrology instruments are normally large, heavy structures that require a well-stabilised environment to maintain accuracy, stability and functionality. These physical and functional features prevent optical metrology from moving into future smart and autonomous applications across many sectors.

The proposed programme aims to challenge fundamental barriers to the use of optical measurement techniques in highly integrated, smart and autonomous 'Industry 4.0' metrology applications and emerging nanotechnologies, by establishing a unique, world-leading research collaboration in the UK that brings together advanced metrology and nanotechnology. It will translate the latest advances in nanophotonics, plasmonics and metamaterials research, in which the UK has played an internationally-leading role, into metrological applications. This will have a transformational impact on optical metrology by enabling cheaper, smarter and much more compact solutions. Research will be channelled through three complementary streams:

1. Nanophotonics-enabled components for metrology. This strand of the programme will draw on the wealth of recent fundamental developments in nanophotonics, for example, the fact that surfaces patterned with subwavelength-sized features can offer exquisite control over the wavefront of propagating light. Replacing one (or several) bulky element(s) with a single surface that carries out the same (combined) function offers hugely significant savings in size and weight, complexity and robustness (e.g. against misalignment), and opportunity to develop new measurement functionalities and instrumental configurations that are not otherwise possible.

2. Novel metrology concepts for nanotechnology. We will develop two ground-breaking ideas for metrological technologies: (1) The "optical ruler", which allows for non-contact displacement measurements with potentially sub-nm resolution using a sensor that could ultimately be manufactured on the tip of an optical fibre; (2) An approach to dynamic "nano-motion imaging" based upon the scanning electron microscopy (SEM) platform, to spatially map high-frequency nano- to picometre amplitude movement.

3. Novel metrology tools for manufacturing and nanotechnology. Using the nanophotonic components and concepts described above, we will develop novel metrology tools and measurement techniques to perform in real-world, as opposed to laboratory, conditions. Target applications will include, for example, surface/geometric metrologies compatible with manufacturing tools such as diamond turning machines and multi-axis (sub-) nanometric displacement encoding for translation stages.

This programme will bring together the expertise of world-leading research groups in metrology and nanophotonics, with key industrial project partners including Renishaw and Taylor Hobson. Together, we aim to address long-standing challenges for optical metrology and to develop new, disruptive metrological technologies. These advances will be vital to support the high-value manufacturing sector in the UK. The impact of this work, however, will be felt across a far broader range of disciplines, as size and weight are significant issues in, for example, instrumentation for space science, optical instrumentation for surgical applications, and robotic arm-mounted instruments.

Planned Impact

Measurements are made constantly in industry, healthcare, environmental monitoring and many other aspects of everyday life. Technological progress and future competitiveness are thus fundamentally reliant upon advances in metrology. However, current optical metrology systems are running into technological constraints in terms of size, weight and flexibility. The development of ground-breaking nanophotonics-enabled metrology will be a key component in realising the UK government's plans for rebalancing the economy. In particular, non-contact, non-destructive optical metrologies are crucial for smart manufacturing, engineering and nanotechnology. Our Programme will be a major step forward in the global process of deriving true commercial and societal impact from the maturing field of nanophotonics and photonic metamaterials, in which the EPSRC has made substantial prior and continuing investment.

Economic impact: New technology and IP will be transferred via the UK innovation community e.g. our industrial Project Partners, High-value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult and Photonics Leadership Group, and will deliver functionally advanced and robust sensors that are dramatically smaller and faster, leading to significantly enhanced flexibility of integration.

Societal impact: Consumers will benefit from access to new technologies resulting from the high-value manufacturing revolution, while the path demonstrated to generate light, robust, optical instrumentation with enhanced and new functionalities can be exploited more widely, for example in medical applications leading to improved outcomes in health and quality of life.

People: People are a critical aspect in the sustainability and long-term impact of any new technology. The programme will impact all tiers of the knowledge economy by establishing future leaders in metrology and nanophotonics research - developing a cohort of uniquely qualified early-career researchers and PhD students, trained in a highly agile research environment with strong industrial links.

Policy makers and public corporations: To promote wider understanding of our research we will use open access as a key dissemination principle of the Programme (dedicated website, Wikipedia, Researcher ID and Google Scholar indices, video tutorials etc.). Key scientific results will be publicised through university and EPSRC communications offices, and in industry-oriented journals.
Title Zepler Institute Virtual Tour 
Description Online virtual tour of Zerpler Institute cleanroom facilities and research laboratories 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Recognition of research excellence and leadership; International visibility for UK research 
Title Dataset for Integrated terahertz generator-manipulators using epsilon-near-zero-hybrid nonlinear metasurfaces 
Description This research dataset should be interpreted and understood in the context of the corresponding manuscript, which has been published in Nano Letters with DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.1c02372. All relevant information regarding the dataset, how it was obtained and its context is contained in the manuscript. The data correspond to the data shown in the figures of the manuscript. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes