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£5M Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funding for photonics

Posted on 10 August 2017

Researchers from the University of St Andrews and the University of York have been awarded over £5M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to research resonant and shaped photonics which could revolutionise our understanding of the biomedical world.

The study will explore new and innovative ways in which we can use light to measure the natural world. Scientists will address major global challenges in antimicrobial resistance, neurodegenerative disease, as well as break through glass ceilings in imaging, measurement as well as manipulation of miniscule particles using light.

Light has been used for centuries to image the world around us and continues to provide profound insights across physics, chemistry, biology, materials science and medicine. However, what are the limits of light as a measurement tool? For example, we can use light to image single bacteria, but can we also use light to trap a single bacterium, identify the bacterial strain and assess its susceptibility to antibiotics? How can we image over multiple length scales, from single cells to multiple cellular tissue, in order to comprehensively map all of the connections in the brain? These are the questions the team of researchers from the University of St Andrews and York aim to answer.

This research builds on the team’s recent advances in photonics - the science of generating, controlling and detecting light - and in particular will exploit novel shapes of laser light and particularly the concept of resonance, the reinforcement that may occur when light interacts with a minute nanostructure. This is rather akin to the increased reverberation of a musical instrument, or pushing a child on a playground swing at just the right tempo to make the swing go higher and higher.

Professor Kishan Dholakia, Principal Investigator from the University of St Andrews said:

“This is a strong endorsement of our team’s effort over the last few years in the area of photonics and allows us to address major globally relevant challenges with a host of international partners”.

Professor Thomas Krauss from the University of York said:

“The team brings a unique combination of expertise in photonics that will allow us to fully understand the response of bacteria to antibiotics and to develop a rapid and accurate diagnostic technology”.

The team will work closely with clinicians and a number commercial partners to ensure the clinical impact of their work.

The EPSRC Programme Grant is valued at £5.023M (80% cost) and is a collaboration between Professors Kishan Dholakia, Frank Gunn-Moore and Malte Gather at the University of St Andrews and Professors Thomas Krauss and Steve Johnson at the University of York.