Emergent Photonics Research Centre opens at Loughborough University

a student in a dark room using photonics lab equipment

Inside the Emergent Photonics Research Centre. Image courtesy of hollisphotography.uk

Loughborough University has launched a new research centre dedicated to revolutionising science and technology through photonics - the study of lasers and light waves.

A table of laser lights lighting up in green
The new state-of-the-art facility features laser technology. Image courtesy of hollisphotography.uk

The Emergent Photonics Research Centre is a new, 600 square metre, state-of-the-art facility home to a team of researchers focused on advancing ultra-fast nonlinear optics, complexity, and photonics knowledge, and creating innovative technologies with applications ranging from quantum physics to biology.

The Centre's research agenda includes developing photonic technologies, such as micro-lasers known as microcombs, to create new, highly accurate, portable devices for positioning, timing, and navigation. These devices will operate independently of GPS infrastructure. They will enable satellites and spacecraft to pinpoint their positions in space and be used to create machines capable of navigating within buildings or under the sea.

Another research priority for the Centre is using terahertz waves – a challenging to access, yet highly sought part of the electromagnetic spectrum – to develop novel technologies. The Emergent Photonics Research team is already developing a terahertz wave camera capable of imaging microscopic items hidden inside 3D objects, which could have major implications for a range of fields with relevance in medical diagnostics, security, and materials research.

Ongoing research projects are also exploring how artificial intelligence can be used to enhance control of photonic systems and how such systems can be used as fast and efficient deep-learning networks, a type of artificial intelligence modelled after the human brain’s structure.

photonics research equipmentInside the Emergent Photonics Research Centre. Image courtesy of hollisphotography.uk

At an opening ceremony on Tuesday 11 June, esteemed academics and representatives from major UK funders, research councils, and research entities enjoyed a firsthand look at the Centre’s cutting-edge facilities and a series of presentations.

Of the launch and hopes for the future, Centre Director, Professor Marco Peccianti, said: "The Emergent Photonics Research Centre has a singular vision: to harness the transformative power of Photonic Complexity to explore and manipulate natural phenomena, creating groundbreaking technologies in the process.

“As we open our doors, we are not just launching a centre; we are inviting the global scientific community to join us at the frontier of discovery.

“We aim to become an incubator for innovation, where scholars, industry experts, and institutions from around the world can collaborate on pioneering research that bridges the gaps between disparate scientific domains.”

A man and a woman stood over photonics research equipment in conversationThe Emergent Photonics Research Centre is home to a team of researchers focused on advancing ultra-fast nonlinear optics, complexity, and photonics knowledge. Pictured from right to left is Professor Alessia Pasquazi, Professor of Nonlinear Optics, and PhD student Debayan Das. Image courtesy of hollisphotography.uk

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Chancellor and President of Loughborough University, and Professor Claudia Eberlein, Dean of the School of Science, were among those celebrating the opening of the Centre at yesterday’s event.

“We are immensely proud and excited to launch the Emergent Photonics Research Centre, representing a significant advancement in the innovative work being done in the field of photonics in the UK”, said Professor Jennings.

“The Centre’s research will deepen our understanding of nature's complexities and drive the development of groundbreaking technologies with far-reaching impacts across multiple fields. This investment underscores Loughborough University's commitment to world-leading fundamental research.”

Professor Eberlein added: “Photonics plays a key role in both cutting-edge fundamental research as well as modern innovations in 21st century technology. 

“Loughborough has made a major investment in establishing this very large and highly sophisticated Centre in order to be at the forefront of these developments. Projects that have already started range from fundamental metrology to advances in communications technology and novel pathways of investigating living organisms. 

“I am absolutely certain we will see a lot of groundbreaking research and creative innovations emerging from the Centre in the near future.”

A large group of peopleAcademics and esteemed guests celebrating the Emergent Photonics Research Centre at the opening event. 

The Centre’s research is supported by funding from various prestigious entities, including the European Union's European Research Council (EU ERC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), Innovate UK, The Leverhulme Trust, and the United States Army Research Office.

For more information on the Emergent Photonics Research Centre, visit the dedicated webpage.