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Research Projects

Student Research - Introduction

As an interdisciplinary research group we have members in the Schools of Chemistry, Physics and Engineering. Therefore research projects run the full gamut from fundamental materials science to engineering devices and components. Student from all these departments are welcomed either as direct students at iPL or as indirect students in affiliated projects in each department. Students have ranged from undergraduate to postgraduate.

We have also had students from other universities in NSW including Newcastle University, Macquarie University, University of New South Wales and the University of New England. Other broader national associations include Melbourne University and Southern Queensland University.

Prof. Canning is Conjoint Professor at UNSW and has co-supervised students with Prof. Gang-Ding Peng from UNSW so other arrangements are possible.

International students are more than welcome – usually high quality students are funded from overseas by their parent institution to spend a period of time as part of their postgraduate studies. We will support application for special grants either within Australia or in their home country if the student is of sufficient calibre. In this way we have supported students from as far a field as Finland, Brasil, Singapore, UK, France, China, Sweden, and the US.

Below are some of the existing projects but iPL is flexible and will cater to interests across all disciplines particularly if there is genuine enthusiasm.

For more information email

Research Projects in Schools of Chemistry, Physics and Engineering


Optical wire chemical and biological sensors

Recent innovative breakthroughs enabling the self-assembly of photonic waveguides using nanoparticles will be exploited to develop novel chemical sensors. Metal detecting, customised organic molecules will be used to attach to the wires. Porphyrins and The controlled self-assembly of inorganic nanoparticles is a revolution in the making.

Optical wire magnetic composites

In this project the combination of silica and ferroelectric nanoparticles offers a novel tool for increasing the Faraday coefficient of silica, leading to potentially compact Faraday rotators.

Single photon sources

Recent work has shown the integration of nitrogen-vacancy (NV) nanodiamonds into silica is possible using nanoparticle self-assembly. Single photon emitting centres were successfully embedded. This project will attempt to fabricate practical single photon emitting source for potential quantum computing and sensing applications.

Surface patterned self-assembly

This project will look at the role of patterning to direct and control deposition of drops, the self-assembly of nanoparticles and more. In particular, the integration of self-assembled nanoparticles onto silica and silicon chips will be explored.

Nanoparticle self-assembly inside structured optical fibres

This project will examine the optimisation of novel core structures inside optical fibres to enhance functionality and allow new devices, lasers and sensors to be fabricated.


Understanding glass and the role of hydrogen within has led to Fibre Bragg gratings that survive beyond 1100°C. The optical fibre acts as a superb miniature processing laboratory that can help provide fundamental information on glass transformations particularly within complex glassy systems. This project explores using dopants in the glass in further optimising the performance.

Regenerated gratings - fundamentals

The underlying process of glass "smithing" has enormous potential well beyond fibre gratings. This is a new approach pioneered at iPL to use laser seeding to enable nanoscale control of normal bulk thermal heating and quenching of glass. Understanding the basic science is also critical.

Regenerated gratings - applications

Applications to power industry, furnace characterisation and turbine measurements are currently being pursued through numerous local and international collaborations. T This is an extremely topic area of relevance ot the energy sector and ultimately climate change.

Ultra high temperature operating lasers

Work towards fibre lasers that can operate well above several hundred degrees has important ramifications for a number of sectors of national interest as well as fundamental implications for laser performance. Studying femtosecond processed glass is also being undertaken with collaborations in Europe through a Marie Curie exchange program and with other international partners in North America. The confirmation of molecular oxygen in nanoscaled structures and voids was carried out using state of the art Raman microscopy facilities within the School of Chemistry.


Chemical and biochemical sensing, especially in the energy and environmental sectors (and also health) is one of the fastest growing research fields in photonics. The silica a fibre host is perhaps the most desirable platform for a number of reasons including the ability to perform safe and remote interrogation and to have mufti-functionality. Various project opportunities to develop novel sensors in fibre and integrated form, some using the technologies briefly described above, are available. In particular, laser processing of surfaces is an extremely important project to both understand and control robust attachment of molecules to surfaces.


With the establishment of a new state of the art modified chemical vapor deposition (MCVD) silica fibre fabrication facility at UNSW (with nine partner universities), project opportunities exist in a number of areas to explore new fibres and better understand the MCVD processing. Areas can include new Bi fibres (led by Prof. Peng at UNSW) for amplifiers, lasers and sensors and novel structured fibres including photonic crystal fibres, Fresnel fibres, spun structured optical fibres (work involving Smart Digital Optics, a former spin-out of the Australian Photonics CRC) and so on.