PhD projects

We are currently advertising a fully funded PhD studentship!

We have been allocated a funded EPSRC studentship covering tuition and stipend for eligible applicants. This studentship is for the first of the projects listed below. If you are considering applying, please get in touch as soon as possible.

Advertised projects

These are some of the projects for which we are currently seeking PhD students. Research moves fast, and this list doesn’t keep up. If you are interested in working in one of our research areas but don’t see a project there, please contact Dr Laird anyway.

Studying quantum motion with a vibrating carbon nanotube

Predicted quantum interference of a nanomechanical resonator

To predict the behaviour of a small particle, for example, an electron moving through a molecule, it is essential to use the concept of quantum superposition – the particle may traverse a superposition of multiple paths simultaneously. Such superposition states have been beautifully demonstrated for photons, atoms, and molecules, but it is an exciting open question why larger objects do not show this behaviour.

We can address this question experimentally by studying the motion of mesoscopic objects containing millions of atoms. This project will make and measure vibrating carbon nanotubes, whose resonant frequencies are high enough that they can be cooled to their quantum ground state. We recently showed theoretically how to use an analogue of a grating interferometer, constructed by integrating the resonator into a superconducting qubit, in order to measure interference between different paths of motion. This experiment would dramatically push the boundary of quantum mechanics from the realm of molecules towards the realm of fabricated objects. This project will aim to carry the experiment out, using advanced cryogenic and nanofabrication technology at Lancaster.

References (see Publications)

  • “Displacemon electromechanics: how to detect quantum interference in a nanomechanical resonator”. K.E. Khosla at al. arXiv:1710.01920 (PRX in press, 2018)
  • “Resonant optomechanics with a vibrating carbon nanotube and a radio-frequency cavity”, N. Ares et al. Phys Rev Lett117 170801 (2016)

Miniature atomic clock based on endohedral fullerenes

Foundations of the endohedral fullerene clock (a) N@C60 molecule. (b) Spin resonance spectroscopy of a cell of N@C60 in solution. At the clock field, the resonance is insensitive to magnetic noise and can be used as a frequency reference.

Atomic clocks are among the most precise scientific instruments ever made and are key to advanced navigation, communication, and radar technologies. We are pursuing a new approach to create a clock that will fit on a chip. Instead of atomic vapours, we will use electron and nuclear spins in endohedral fullerene molecules – nature’s atom traps – whose energy levels offer an exquisitely stable frequency reference. To make this novel approach work, we must overcome a range of physics and engineering challenges, including detecting spin resonance from a small number of spins, identifying the energy levels involved, and miniaturizing the control electronics and magnet. The reward will be a completely new technology with a wide range of civilian and military uses. We are looking for a candidate who has a strong interest in applying quantum physics in new technology and is motivated to develop the new and demanding electronic measurement techniques that will be necessary.

References (see Publications)

  • “Keeping Perfect Time with Caged Atoms”, K. Porfyrakis and E.A. Laird, IEEE Spectrum (Dec 2017, p34)
  • “The spin resonance clock transition of the endohedral fullerene 15N@C60”, R.T. Harding et al. Phys Rev Lett119 140801 (2017)