Dr Luke Peters

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow – Physics

Dr Luke Peters is an experimental physicist, expert in terahertz (THz) radiation – particularly at the intersection between ultrafast photonics, complexity and THz photonics. His work has been published in international journals, and his surface THz phenomena research is widely considered a reference in the field. His Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellowship is supporting his investigation into the potential role of THz in future broadband and telecommunication technologies.

Taming the wave – the role of terahertz in telecommunications

The THz frequency range has been a growing area of interest to scientists for the past 30 years, and there has been huge progress in our understanding and application of it. It supports advanced biomedical imaging, sensing and spectroscopy – and offers possibilities across diverse sectors including engineering, electronics, photonics and nanotechnology. But there are still many aspects of THz behaviour that need to be addressed to truly “tame” and harness its capabilities.

THz radiation sits between infrared light waves and microwave radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum in the “terahertz gap” – so called because the technology for its generation and manipulation is in its infancy.

RP Photonics – Terahertz radiation

How many devices do you have at home? According to a 2020 survey, the average UK household has nine – spanning phones, computers, TVs, games consoles, set-top boxes, digital assistants, smart watches...

A telecommunications tower, antenna and satellite dish - a city's lights in the distance below
A telecommunications tower

And device ownership is only going to keep on rising. So, it’s no surprise that demand for greater broadband capacity is similarly growing.

My current research is part of the move towards 6G which will help meet our connectivity needs. Expected to launch commercially in 2030, 6G will make greater use of the distributed radio access network (RAN) and – here’s where my work comes in – the terahertz (THz) spectrum.

The latter has real potential in supporting future telecommunications particularly with regards local connections, wireless datacentres and big data infrastructures.

I hope that one day I’ll be a lead researcher with my own research group – pushing back the boundaries of THz discoveries and developments.

Light scattering through early morning mist, falling in rays over mountain trees
Light scattering through morning mist

However, with THz technologies still in their infancy, there are several issues that need to be addressed. For example, THz waves scatter unpredictably when they hit obstructing media – objects like walls and furniture – scrambling information and making it unintelligible as they disperse. Not ideal to say the least.

Scattering is also a problem in THz imaging – and is what I worked on as part of the Time-Resolved Nonlinear Ghost Imaging (TIMING) project when I worked at the Emergent Photonics (EPic) Lab in Brighton. We developed a novel form of single-pixel imaging that boosts performance, drawing on advances made in complexity and nonlinear-physics.

My current work applies these findings. In fact, I’m exploring ways to harness the natural phenomenon of scattering to actually enhance communications. Drawing on my previous research, I’m looking at ways to transmit THz waves through scattering media – which will also enhance information encryption and security.

I hope that my project – Ghost imaging for scattering management in terahertz links (SIGNAL) – will deliver a disruptive solution that will have wide-ranging applications. And, secure my future within this exciting and transformative field of research.

My research journey

After my A-Levels, I set my course for Hull to do my MPhys in Physics with Nanotechnology. My thesis explored “Titanium dioxide as an interface layer for organic photovoltaics”. So, even then, I was interested in exploring how the properties of various materials can improve the functionality of everyday technologies and devices.

During my time at Hull I undertook a module with Dr Angela Dyson, which briefly touched on THz radiation, and sparked my interest in the subject.

When I graduated in 2014, I headed south to Sussex – my home for the next eight years – and was really lucky to join the EPic Lab for my PhD.

The team were very welcoming and inspiring – working on some really cutting-edge advances. My role was to investigate ways to generate and control THz waves in complex photonic systems and surfaces. I was honoured to have my work recognised by the Roger Blin-Stoyle (for outstanding PhD thesis) Award 2019.

I then spent some time away from the UK at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST – Saudi Arabia) as a Research Fellow, developing industrial IP for machine learning in bio-imaging.

When I returned to the Epic Lab, I worked on two projects. The first – part of the TIMING project – focused on the development of random terahertz emitters. The resulting technology could have many imaging uses across biology, medicine, material science, quality inspection and security.

The other project, called THink, created a unique terahertz-emitting ink which has applications in counterfeit prevention. The ink would make bank notes and luxury brands much harder to imitate – reducing fraud and the prevalence of fake products. I am a named inventor on the technology’s patent.

In 2022, I joined Loughborough and am now part of the newly established Emergent Photonics Research Centre where I’m using my accumulated knowledge and skills to develop future telecommunications systems.

I love what I do. Experimental physics keeps you on your toes, presenting practical challenges to be solved with unique approaches. I hope that one day I’ll be a lead researcher with my own research group – pushing back the boundaries of THz discoveries and developments.

Photograph of Luke Peters in the lab

Dr Luke Peters

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow

Discover more