Optical devices and subsystems

Design, modelling, fabrication, processing and evaluation of new or improved optical devices/systems (planar wave-guide and fibre-based) whose quantum unit is the photon, including ultraviolet (UV), visible, infrared (IR), terahertz (THz) and microwave radiation. This research area includes, for example, the use of optical components such as high-speed sources and all-optical modulators, non-linear optical elements, gratings, photonic band-gap, silicon photonics and metamaterial device structures. It also encompasses hybrid integrative technologies to realise higher-level functionality (e.g. solid-state lasers and fibre lasers, sensors and sensor arrays, and optical subsystems), and application drivers (e.g. optical computing and data storage, optical communications, manufacturing, security and medical technologies).

The strategy for this Research Area recognises the high quality of research undertaken in this area, as demonstrated by the existence of leading research groups in the UK, and its impact on both Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sectors and non-ICT sectors. This research area has an extremely strong overlap with the larger Optoelectronic Devices and Circuits area, with researchers often working in both.

By the end of the current Delivery Plan, we aim to have:

  • Researchers continuing to place an emphasis on taking a systems approach in order to foster more informed design, and to enable the community to continue addressing challenges beyond their own domains
  • A portfolio of research which continues to be informed by work on new materials and basic technology (e.g. new 2D materials and nanophotonics), with closer links to other areas within and beyond ICT through increased cross-disciplinarity and co-creation of research
  • Researchers considering how they can respond to future challenges and priorities (e.g. the Internet of Things, energy-efficient computing and contributions to enabling infrastructure)
  • A portfolio which continues to play a pivotal role in high-value manufacturing through its work on laser research, as this supports the UK to compete on the global manufacturing stage. Future activities around this research area should be conducted in a way that maximises the benefits in this field
  • A substantial research area which includes a mixture of projects and programmes ranging in scale and scope, and fostering a healthy balance between support for earlier and for more established researchers.

There is much high-quality research being undertaken in this area, with world-leading UK capability in THz photonics, where there are security and medical applications (e.g. imaging). Collaborations at both national and international level are numerous, particularly with the European Union and the US, and support the fact that the impact of this research is relevant both to traditional ICT sectors (e.g. communications, electronics) and non-ICT sectors (e.g. healthcare, manufacturing, energy and defence). (Evidence source 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

As with the Optoelectronic Devices and Circuits area, Optical Devices and Subsystems includes a community supported by a number of longer, larger grants (Evidence source 3). While this balance of funding has contributed to the UK's international standing in this area and provides sufficient capacity (Evidence source 1,2,3,4), we need to ensure this approach does not compromise the area's long-term health by limiting expertise to a few major research efforts, or by narrowing the opportunities available to the next generation of research leaders.

This research area relies on an extensive equipment infrastructure, from individual pieces of kit through to mid-range facilities (e.g. the National Centre for III-V Technologies). Innovate UK's High Value Manufacturing Catapult also provides a way for the UK research base to engage with business effectively and to help drive economic growth. Laser research in this area is also supported by the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes, which benefits from 31 industrial partners spanning the complete value chain for laser-based production processes. (Evidence source 8)

Bringing together a multidisciplinary team of leading UK researchers and key industry partners enhances the potential impact of this research area on the current or future success of the UK economy. This has led to our strategic focus on increased co-creation of research, as supported by the EPSRC Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-creation cross-ICT priority. (Evidence source 2)

This research area has the potential to contribute to the EPSRC Connected, Productive and Resilient Nation Outcomes in both the short and long-term. The following Ambitions are especially relevant:

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

This research area can contribute by developing new devices for distributed sensor networks.

R2: Ensure a reliable infrastructure which underpins the UK economy

This area can provide underpinning components for communications, medical technology, manufacturing and security.

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

This area can provide underpinning components for communications, medical technology, manufacturing and security.

  1. Community engagement (individual input, group feedback and team visits).
  2. Input from the ICT Strategic Advisory Team and Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 panellists.
  3. EPSRC Optical Devices and Subsystems research area data.
  4. Photonics Leadership Group.
  5. Photonics Leadership Group, UK Photonics: Future Growth Opportunity Roadmap (PDF), (2015).
  6. A. Hamacker and G. Jordan, Photonics: Revolutionising our World, (2014).
  7. Photonics21, The Photonics Landscape Europe.
  8. EPSRC, Laser-based Manufacturing Applications: UK Roadmap-2014 (PDF), (2014).

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 optical devices and subsystems (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

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: Maryam Crabbe-Mann
Job title: Portfolio Manager
Department: ICT
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444364