PhD Studentship - Photonic Sensors for Deep Ocean Monitoring

University of Southampton

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Position type:

Full time

24 Mar 2021
31 Aug 2021

Full details:

Reference number: SOU-1353321PN

Supervisory Team: Gilberto Brambilla, Rand Ismaeel, Timothy Lee, Matthew Mowlem, Qilei Song

Project description

Although our oceans contain 99% of the living space on the planet, only less than 10% of this space has been explored. The oceans cover 71% of the Earth's surface, while 95% remains unexplored.

Today, ocean research is widely enhanced by marine sensing technologies, including in situ testing, integrated sensor networks, as well as remote sensing. However, as the deadline of carbon net-zero rapidly approaches, there is an ever-increasing demand to increase the compactness and the efficiency of ocean sensors. Development is required to to enable new generation of ocean sensors capable of detecting trace concentration of pollutants, while kept compact enough to be integrated into miniaturised subsea vehicles.  

The aim of this exciting and innovative project is to develop and expand the range of analytes (and pollutants) to detect, using a novel technique of single wavelength intracavity absorption spectroscopy. Recently, this innovative technique has been successfully deployed for the detection of ocean hydrocarbons. 

Within this project, you will optimise the sensor for the detection of a specific molecule depending on the following parameters.

  • Sensor material and optimum design.
  • Compatibility with permeable membranes.
  • Sea vehicle specifications (payload size, depth, battery lifetime).
  • Geographic location (Temperature, living aquatics).
  • Water type and depth. 
  • Cross sensitivity with other molecules.


The successful candidate will be part of a wider Multidisciplinary team within the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC)/ National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

The project, undertaken with the support of the world leading ocean sensors industries, will be a balance of theoretical and experimental work. The theoretical work will comprise numerical modelling of the interaction of light with a permeable membrane. The experimental work will be undertaken on campus in both ORC (sensor fabrication) and  NOC (sensor testing and calibration). In collaboration with world class researchers from Imperial College, a permeable membrane for a specific pollutant will add a dimension of selectivity to the sensor. You will also have the opportunity to join Southampton’s Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI).

Ideally, the candidate should have a background in one of the following topics: Physics, Photonics, Electronics Engineering, or Chemical Engineering. Applicants with material science backgrounds are also encouraged to apply. Due to the Multidisciplinary nature of the team, you will have the opportunity to develop valuable range of skills in cross-cutting areas of Engineering, Oceanography, and Chemistry.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Rand Ismaeel, Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 7727475218.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: 31 August 2021 

Funding: A fully funded PhD place on this project is available for eligible UK applicants supported by NERC, EPSRC Studentship.  The studentship comes with a stipend of up to £18,000 (tax-free) with fees paid.

How To Apply

Applications should be made online. Select programme type (Research), 2021/22, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, next page select “PhD  ORC (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Gilberto Brambilla 

Applications should include

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online via the apply online button below.

For further information please contact: 

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