Research in ultrafast laser science and engineering at Heriot-Watt ranges from the fundamental to the applied, reflected by our broad portfolio of projects supported by the public sector, the charitable sector and the private sector.

Key themes of our research include:

Novel Ultrafast Sources and Applications

Work in this area includes the development of state-of-the-art femtosecond laser and OPO technology. Heriot-Watt demonstrated the first femtosecond OPO frequency comb and subsequently achieved coherent pulse synthesis between a laser and an OPO. Current activity includes frequency-comb spectroscopy in the mid-IR and THz regions, coherent synthesis of optical attosecond pulses, the development of µJ-energy fs OPOs and lasers, and the creation of modelocked waveguide lasers using ultrafast inscription. A number of sources developed at Heriot-Watt are now being applied to industrial applications such as 2-photon microscopy of integrated circuits and industrial materials processing.

Photonic Devices and Materials

This major theme includes the ultrafast laser inscription of complex couplers, and active devices in nonlinear crystals and laser glasses. Motivated by applications in optical instrumentation and sensing we are developing active and passive waveguide devices, diffractive-optical elements and nano-/micro-structured fibres. Fundamental experimental and theoretical research into mid-infrared materials and semiconductor devices supports and complements other work in this theme, including research using the FELIX free-electron laser.

Ultrafast Quantum Optics

This concerns the study of relativistic quantum optics using high-intensity pulse propagation in fibres and bulk media to investigate quantum vacuum fluctuations and quantum entanglement in accelerated frames of reference, related to Heriot-Watt’s recently reported demonstration of optical Hawking radiation.

Collaborative Research

Finally, collaborations with colleagues in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bio-engineering inform our research in Ultrafast Bio-Photonics, which includes the development of micro-fluidic bioreactor devices written using fs lasers, motivated by the fact that micro-fluidic environments better mimic the “in vivo” conditions needed to culture important cell types like stem cells. In a separate activity, pump-probe experiments in ultrafast molecular dynamics are being used to understand how pathways mediating the rapid and efficient dissipation of excess energy in biomolecular systems underpin certain “self-protection” mechanisms that shield the body from the otherwise potentially damaging effects of exposure to UV radiation.

Our Research Groups

For more information please visit the research-group sites below or contact Prof. Derryck Reid