Light matter interaction and optical phenomena

Theoretical and experimental research into atom-light interactions, laser trapping and laser manipulation with optical tweezers, spanners, traps and atomic optics. This research area includes fundamental physics of non-linear optical phenomena (e.g. non-linear pattern formation, periodic poling and non-linear dynamics), as well as light-scattering and holography, for example.

This is an area that has far-reaching impact in a wide variety of fields; for instance, it will be instrumental in the introduction of the next generation of imaging technologies that are innovative and disruptive.

To help realise this aim, during this Delivery Plan period:

  • There will be increased engagement with industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to secure greater input from them, with an emphasis on the medium and long-term applications to which this area can contribute
  • Provision to sustain the level of early-career researchers in the area should ensure that the UK maintains its internationally leading reputation in certain fields. This would protect future capability within the UK research community

By the end of the Delivery Plan, we will have worked with the community to enhance its integration and collaboration with other research areas, particularly Plasma and Lasers. In addition, we will expand links with other researchers and end-users in other parts of EPSRC's portfolio, such as quantum technologies, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), manufacturing and engineering, through increased collaborative research.


There are internationally recognised UK groups active in light-matter interaction. Specifically, the excellence of their work in fields such as optical tweezers and traps is widely acknowledged (Evidence source 1), demonstrating that UK leadership and expertise in this research area is robust. The community's interdisciplinary work often crosses into related research areas and feeds heavily into a number of others (especially Quantum Optics and Information, and Plasma and Lasers).

Although the nature of the research is fundamental, it has huge potential and attracts a high level of interest from various industries (e.g. ICT, telecommunications and biotechnology), demonstrating its influence with regard to a large number of sectors critical to the UK economy (Evidence sources 2,3,4,5).

The expansion in investment by countries in Asia and Europe (e.g. Germany) needs to be considered when thinking about the UK's contribution to this research field and its ability to remain globally competitive (Evidence source 5,6). For example, many UK-based research projects are undertaken in collaboration with international partners, such as the Max Planck Institutes and Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US. Furthermore, some of the research in this area is led by a number of national facilities, including the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). This reflects the high priority that the government places on this research area.

There is a strong level of support for training through the CDTs (Centres for Doctoral Training) and DTPs (Doctoral Training Partnerships) and this should be maintained as a proportion of the area's portfolio. Provision for early-career researchers in the field should continue to sustain the UK's internationally leading reputation.

This area is expected to contribute widely to the Outcomes for example, through the following Ambitions in the connected, resilient and healthy nation outcomes:

C1: Enable a competitive, data-driven economy

C2: Achieve transformational development and use of the Internet of Things

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

C4: Ensure a safe and trusted cyber society

This research area will have an impact largely through improvements to the physics of non-linear fibre optics and optical metrology.

R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency

R3: Develop better solutions to acute threats: cyber, defence, financial and health

This research area will help foster developments in laser-based communication and infrastructure, as well as advancing communications and electronic devices.

H3: Optimise diagnosis and treatment

H5: Advance non-medicinal interventions

This research area can evolve new imaging technologies and contribute to formation of new optical materials. 

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Light matter interaction and optical phenomena (GoW)
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Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Emma Roworth
Organisation: EPSRC