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Award details

University of Exeter funding: Quantum technologies to advance the

CDT in Metamaterials: Quantum Nano-photonics – the science and technology of new sources of light Ref: 3802

About the award

Quantum technologies to advance the integration of single photon emitters in photonic structures

Statement of Research

Joint supervisors: Dr Anna Ott, Prof C David Wright

Transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are optically active, semiconducting layered materials (LMs) which can be exfoliated down to monolayers or stacked in heterostructures. Their intrinsic properties make them not only interesting for fundamental physics studies but also for technological applications. Quantum light emitters have been observed in atomically thin layers of transition metal dichalcogenides [see e.g. 2,3]. Due to their dimensionality, they operate at the fundamental limit of single-layer thickness, promising high photon emission rate and enabling integration with conventional silicon technology such as coupling to waveguides[1]. Furthermore, two-level systems in TMDs can be created deterministically [2] and single photons can be generated by electroluminescence [3]. For these reasons, the identification of quantum emitters (QEs) in LMs has generated much excitement in the field of two-dimensional nano-photonics and quantum technologies [4].
However, the origin of single photon emitters in TMDs is still under discussion, and has been assigned to both defects and strain gradients. Also the dielectric environment could play a role. In order to use TMD-based quantum technology it is crucial to obtain an understanding of the origin of single photon emission in TMDs. This understanding can then be exploited for the development of scalable integrated quantum technology.
The aim of this project will be to use light-matter interactions to study layered materials for quantum technologies. The prospective candidate will work on advancing the fabrication technique to explore the potential of different layered materials and their heterostructures, to develop and fabricate TMD-based single photon emitter structures and to test and analyse them by means of spectroscopy and microscopy (e.g. Raman, TERS, PL, AFM, TEM). The aim is to clarify the origin of single photon emission in TMD-based heterostructures. This understanding can then be exploited for the development of scalable integrated quantum technology. The final goal of this PhD project will be to advance the integration of single photon emitters in photonic structures such as microcavities and waveguides.

[1] P. Tonndorf, et al.,Nano Lett.17, 5446 (2017).
[2] C. Palacios-Berraquero, et al.,Nat. Commun.8, 12593 (2017).
[3] C. Palacios-Berraquero, et al.,Nat Commun.7, 12978 (2016).
[4] X. Liu and M. C. Hersam, Nature Reviews Materials (2019).

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.  Our 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.

The 3.5 year studentship will cover £1,687 RTSG in total towards the research project (travel, consumables, etc.), tuition fees for UK/EU/International students, and an annual, tax-free stipend of approx £15,285 per year.

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 to learn more about our centre and see the full list of projects that we have on offer this year.

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’. Since 2014, the Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials (XM2) recruited over 80 PhD students. Learn more about our science and training approach:

Students will choose from a wide range of taught modules, and participate in academic and personal development skills-based workshops. The PhD students are 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.

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.

We are one of the very few universities to be both a member of the Russell Group and have a Gold award from the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), evidence of our established international reputation for excellence in both teaching and research. Our success is built on a strong partnership with our students and a clear focus on high performance.

Exeter is also ranked amongst the world’s top 200 universities in the QS and Times Higher Education rankings.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. 

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

Application criteria

Applications are made to the Metamaterials programme for a PhD in Physics/Engineering. We invite candidates to specify their project(s) of interest at the time of application.

Please ensure to upload ALL items listed below through our application system. Incomplete applications cannot be processed.

  • Degree transcript(s) giving information about the qualification awarded, the modules taken during the study period, and the marks for each module taken.
  • An academic CV;
  • A cover letter outlining your research interests in general, the title of the project(s) you are applying for;
  • A Personal Statement consisting of two parts*:
    • Describe a) why you would like to study for a PhD, b) why you would like to focus on this particular topic, c) any relevant expertise and d) your future career ambitions;
    • Describe the qualities that you believe will make you a great researcher (in particular as part of a team).
  • The contact details of two academic referees.

* We foster creativity and utilisation of individual strengths. Applicants are encouraged to provide evidence to support their statements. This might include conventional written documents (e.g. examples of work), but we also encourage alternatives such as audio or video recordings, websites, programming etc. Please ensure to include accessible links to such files in an appropriately named document as part of the upload process.

Application procedure


Applications will normally be reviewed within two weeks of receipt.

Candidates will be short-listed against a set of agreed criteria to ensure quality while maintaining diversity. Failure to include all the elements listed above may result in rejection.

The essential criteria:

  •              Undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline;
  •              Vision and motivation (for research & professional development);
  •              Evidence of the ability to work collaboratively and to engage in a diverse community;
  •              Evidence of excellent written and oral skills in English.

The highest quality candidates will also be able to demonstrate one of more of the following:

  •             Specialist knowledge about one or more of the 8 research areas listed above;
  •             Training in research methodology (e.g. undergraduate research projects);
  •             Research outputs (e.g. papers) and/or other indicators of academic excellence (e.g. awards).


Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an entry interview to assess fit to the CDT concept. This will be held prior the academic interview with the supervisors and will normally be undertaken by a panel of 3 people, including a current postgraduate researcher or post-doc in Physics or Engineering.

Interviews are expected to start within two weeks upon application receipt. It is therefore advisable to apply as soon as possible.

Please email if you have any queries about this process.


Application deadline:30th November 2020
Number of awards:1
Value:£15,285 per year for 3.5 years plus £1,687 RTSG
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Dr. Isaac Luxmoore (Admissions Tutor)