EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials (PhD studentship): Ultrafast single photon sources Ref: 2831

About the award

The studentship is part of the UK’s Centre of Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) based in the Departments of Physics and Engineering on the Streatham Campus in Exeter.  Its aim is to undertake world-leading research, while training scientists and engineers with the relevant research skills and knowledge, and professional attributes for industry and academia.

XM2 studentships are of value around £90,000, which includes £11,000 towards the research project (travel, consumables, equipment etc.), tuition fees, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approximately £14,500 per year for UK/EU students.

Exeter has a well-established and strong track record of relevant research, and prospective students can consider projects from a wide variety of fields:

  • Acoustic and Fluid-dynamical Metamaterials
  • Biological and Bio-inspired Metamaterials
  • Graphene and other 2D Materials, and related Devices
  • Magnonics, Spintronics and Magnetic Metamaterials
  • Microwave Metamaterials
  • Nanomaterials and Nanocomposites
  • Optical, Infra-red and THz Photonics and Plasmonics
  • Quantum Metamaterials
  • Wave Theory and Spatial Transformations

Please visit www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials to learn more about our centre and see the full list of projects that we have on offer this year.

International students are welcome to apply: fees and project costs will be paid, but the stipend can only be provided in exceptional circumstances.  We encourage international scholarship applicants or recipients to contact us directly prior to making their application (metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk).

Statement of Research

Joint supervisors: Dr Isaac Luxmoore, Prof Bill Barnes

Industrial supervisors: Dr Andrew Ramsay, Hitachi Cambridge Laboratory

The widespread application of quantum photonic technologies is hindered by the availability of high performance single and indistinguishable photon sources; yet the potential to revolutionise communication, measurement and computing demands that new systems and approaches are investigated. One such emerging system is defect emitters in few atomic layer crystals. Thanks to the ease with which 2D materials can be manipulated, there is the unique capacity to integrate them with high performance nanophotonic devices. In particular, defect emitters in hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) have recently emerged as robust quantum emitters with bright, stable fluorescence and nanosecond radiative lifetimes at room temperature [1], but this potential is tempered by a lack of fundamental understanding of the emitter structure and how it interacts with its local environment.

The first objective of the project will be to address this issue and study the dominant dephasing processes arising from the interaction of the two-level quantum system with lattice phonons and charge fluctuations. This will be achieved though the integration of few layer hBN crystals with high quality silicon nitride based integrated photonics. This will enable various spectroscopic measurements and will also stabilise local charge fluctuations through encapsulation of the emitters. Combined with temperature dependent investigations, this will allow a systematic investigation of the dominant dephasing mechanisms and give a true picture of the potential for quantum optics.

The second major objective of this work will be the integration of defect emitters in 2D materials with hybrid plasmonic-dielectric nanophotonics. Although the radiative lifetime of most quantum emitters is on the order of nanoseconds [2], this still limits the photon emission rate to <1GHz and introduces significant timing jitter. To overcome these problems dielectric and plasmonic resonators will be coupled to create hybrid cavities, capable of very large Purcell enhancements. This approach favours 2D materials because the emitter can be placed in close proximity to the plasmonic element, in the region of maximum field enhancement. Theoretical predictions suggest that Purcell Enhancements >1000 can be realised with realistic device parameters [3], thereby enabling single photon rates of 10s or even 100s GHz along with vastly improved timing jitter.

[1] Tran et al., Nature Nanotechnology, 11, 37 (2016).
[2] Aharonovich et al., Nature Photonics 10, 361 (2016).
[3] Doeleman et al., ACS Photonics 3, 1943 (2016).

About XM2

Metamaterials are fabricated microstructures having properties beyond those found in nature. They are an important new class of electromagnetic and acoustic materials with applications in many technology areas: energy storage and improved efficiency, imaging, communications, sensing and the much-hyped ‘cloaking’. Having recruited nearly 70 new PhD researchers in its first four years, the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (XM2) hosted by the University of Exeter (www.exeter.ac.uk/metamaterials) will admit its fifth cohort of PhD students in September 2018.

The first year of the studentship includes an assessed, stand alone project, and a substantial programme of training. Students will choose from a wide range of taught modules, and participate in academic and personal development skills-based workshops, together with creativity events and conference-style meetings. The cohort will also be expected to disseminate their results to the international community via high-impact publications and international conferences. They will spend time working with our academic and industrial partners.  Full details of the programme are available here, or download a copy of our prospectus.

The University of Exeter combines world class research with excellent student satisfaction. It is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. Formed in 1955, the University has over 20,000 students from more than 130 different countries. Its success is built on a strong partnership with its students and a clear focus on high performance. Recent breakthroughs to come out of Exeter's research include the identification and treatment of new forms of diabetes and the creation of the world's most transparent, lightweight and flexible conductor of electricity. Exeter is ranked amongst the UK’s top 10 universities in the Higher Education league tables produced by the Times and the Sunday Times. It is also ranked amongst the world’s top 200 universities in the QS and Times Higher Education rankings.


Application deadline:31st March 2018
Number of awards:1
Value:Approximately £90,000, including research and travel budget, tuition fees and stipend (approximately £14,500 payable to UK or EU students only)
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Prof. Alastair Hibbins (Admissions Tutor)metamaterials@exeter.ac.uk

How to apply

Application criteria

During the application process you will need to upload the documents listed below. Please prepare these before starting the application process.

  • A statement describing why you would like to study for a PhD in Physics or Engineering,
  • A statement describing why you are considering a PhD programme that offers a cohort-based doctoral training model,
  • An academic CV,
  • A cover letter that discusses your preferred area(s) of study and/or your interest in a particular project/supervisor,
  • A document outlining your research interests and any relevant expertise,
  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken,
  • The contact details of two academic referees.

Please note that of all the projects advertised we expect, as a Centre, to fill 15-20 posts only.

Shortlisting and interviews

Applications will be reviewed by members of the XM2 management board and candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the the elements above may result in rejection. Criteria will include:


  • Excellence in a lower degree in a relevant discipline;
  • Excellence in written and oral skills in English;
  • Evidence of knowledge of XM2 ethos, research themes and/or supervisors.


  • Specialist knowledge about one or more XM2 topics;
  • Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or has undertaken training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  • Ability to work collaboratively

Short-listed candidates will be interviewed by a panel of two academic members of staff drawn from the management board. If successful, a second interview will be undertaken by the potential academic supervisors for the student concerned. Offers are normally made shortly after a successful second interview.