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Phillip Russell
Professor Phillip Russell

Press Release - 24 March 2005

£ 2.6 million grant awarded to physics team for vital research

A grant for over £2.5 million has been awarded to scientists of the Photonics and Photonic Materials Group (PPMG) at the University of Bath’s Department of Physics to further their research into an important new area in the field of photonics.

A group of eight academics led by Professor Philip Russell will start work on the project in April, when they receive the £2.68 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The University is also adding an extra £50,000 funding into the project.

The four-year grant will enable the team to recruit four full-time postdoctoral research staff and around 10 PhD students, and provide them with the necessary technical support. The team’s existing laboratory space is being augmented by new laboratories and a new fibre fabrication complex, currently being constructed for the Photonics and Photonic Materials Group by the University at a cost of £1.3 million.

The fundamental work to be done over the next four years will have an impact in many areas of engineering and technology, including light sources, optical telecommunications, ultra-violet light and x-ray generation, atomic and quantum physics and astronomical imaging.

Professor Russell said: “This grant is a confirmation of the importance of the work this team is doing. It is a validation of the excellence of the people in the group and of their sustained efforts over many years to develop photonic crystal fibres.”

Photonic crystal fibre was proposed in 1991 by Professor Russell, and has been continuously developed by the Photonics and Photonic Materials Group over the past eight years. It consists of a hair-thin strand of glass with a series of tiny microscopic air channels running along its length. The air holes transform otherwise normal glass into an extraordinary new optical material with radically new properties, enabling optical effects which were previously thought to be impossible.

The work is expected to lead to a dramatic improvement in the power and flexibility of laser, giving new sources of light with dramatically enhanced efficiency.

This grant will allow the group to carry out work in areas of physics that have been opened up by their discoveries. These include the use of photonic crystal fibres as tiny pipes down which one can pass small particles which are trapped and pushed along by the flow of light. This technique can be used in biomedicine for transporting cells and viruses in water-filled hollow-core photonic crystal fibre.

“At the end of the project we expect to have built up a substantial portfolio of new results and to have stimulated research and development in several new areas of photonics, some of these leading to scientific breakthroughs,” said Professor Russell.

The group has over 400 publications on this and related subjects, and holds a number of patents in many aspects of photonics. The work of the group is of international importance, as demonstrated by the hundreds of groups in the UK and around the world who are now working in the field. The group has collaborative research agreements with around 50 of these other research groups.

The investigators named in the project are: Professor Philip Russell; Dr Tim Birks; Professor Jonathan Knight; Professor David Bird; Dr Fetah Benabid; Dr Stefan Maier; Dr Dmitry Skryabin; Dr William Wadsworth

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