Research Phi

State-of-the-art ultrafast laser inscription facilities

The group has a strong heritage in using ultrafast laser pulses to manufacture photonic structures such as three dimentional optical waveguides - a manufacturing technique known as ultrafast laser inscription (ULI).

When used in combination with chemical etching (FLICE), ultrafast laser inscription can also be used to manufacture components such as freeform fibre-coupled microlens, a technology we are developing for astronomical applications.

Clinical photonics

Through EPSRC, STFC, and MRC funded projects, we are developing new ways to use light for therapeutic and diagnostic applications in healthcare.

Exemplar applications include:


The field of astrophotonics aims to exploit photonic concepts and technologies to enable astronomical instruments with improved performance and lower cost.

Examples of astrophotonic technologies we are currently developping include:

The astrophotonic technologies we have developed, such as the pseudo-slit reformater and the MCIFU, have been tested on-sky at the William Herschel Telescope.

For more information on the state-of-the-art in the field of astrophotonics, see the Journal of the Optical Society of America B special issue on “Astrophotonics: introduction to the feature issue” co-edited by Prof. Thomson.

Fundamental optics

The transport of light across an array of coupled waveguides can be simulated by a Schrodinger-like equation. The similarity of the mathematics facilitates the development of optical analogues of condensed matter phenomena that are challenging to observe in the solid state.

Using our expertise in ultrafast laser waveguide writing, we have developed optical analogues of:

Lab facilities

The PHI group ocupies several labs at the Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences (IPaQS) in Heriot-Watt University.

We are also fortunate to have access to a wide range of device fabrication and characterisation equipment, including: