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PhD Scholarship: Quantum Optomechanical Ultrasound Sensing

Apply now Job No:509202
Area:Faculty of Science
Salary (FTE):Advertised at multiple classifications
Work type:Full Time - Scholarship
Location: St Lucia

School of Mathematics and Physics 

The University of Queensland is recognised nationally and internationally for its research programs across a broad area of mathematics and statistics, and is the leading provider of tertiary mathematics education in Queensland. The School of Mathematics and Physics hosts several research centres and is an active partner in a number of multidisciplinary research groups both within and external to the University. Our staff are recognised internationally for their active and dynamic research programs across a wide range of areas in mathematics.

The University of Queensland is one of the top three universities in Australia, measured by the quality of its comprehensive range of research fields. In addition to providing excellent potential for interdisciplinary research, the University is located in the vibrant riverfront city of Brisbane, whose sub-tropical climate, cultural diversity, and proximity to coastal regions make it an attractive environment in which to live.

About This Opportunity

Project Summary

Quantum optomechanics explores the interaction between light and mechanical motion at a level where the quantised nature of light, or the zero-point fluctuations of motion, play a significant role. This project aims to leverage quantum optomechanical technologies, which have traditionally been used for fundamental quantum science research, to enable the next generation of acoustic sensors for Naval applications.

Project Description

Quite generally, cavity optomechanical sensors consist of a mechanically compliant element coupled to a low loss optical cavity. When the mechanical element is exposed to an external force it is displaced in response. In the situation considered here, this force arises from an acoustic wave. The conversion from displacement to an optical response typically occurs via dispersive coupling, whereby the mechanical displacement alters the cavity length, and therefore the optical resonance frequency. The optical cavity serves to resonantly enhance the optical response to this displacement, enabling attometer displacement resolution and ultra-precise measurement of the acoustic wave.

The ultimate sensitivity of optomechanical sensors is set either by the thermal fluctuations of the mechanical element or by the intrinsic quantum mechanical properties of laser light, with the latter presenting an opportunity to further enhance performance by using non-classical states of light (i.e. squeezed light). The optical field also introduces quantum back-action on the mechanical element via radiation pressure forces, which can be used to control the acoustic state (i.e. effective temperature and resonant frequency) of the compliant mirror.

The optomechanical system considered in this project will build upon our recently developed device, which achieved a sensitivity two orders of magnitude better than existing in-air technologies when normalised to device area. Optimising the mechanical and optical properties of this device, with guidance from finite-element-modelling, is expected to enhance the performance by at least one order-of-magnitude.

Project Activities

To achieve the objectives outlined in the previous section, the PhD student must first become proficient in finite-element modelling (FEM) of mechanical and optical structures using COMSOL. Parallel to developing FEM simulations, the PhD student will be trained in the advanced fabrication techniques/strategies required to reliably make high quality optomechanical devices. This training will be performed within the Australian National Fabrication Facility node located at UQ.

After fabricating devices, the characterisation of sensing capabilities will require constructing a quantum limited fibre-based interferometer. Indeed, this is an area of research in which Prof. Bowen’s laboratory has substantial expertise.

The final activity of this project will be to surpass the sensitivity limits set by the quantum properties of laser light, such as those in our previous demonstration of an optomechanical acoustic sensor, by exploring the use of quantum correlated light (i.e. squeezed light) to further improve sensitivity.

Beyond activities directly associated to the project, there will be domestic and international travel to build further collaborations and present/attend at international conferences and workshops.

Our Ideal Candidate

To be eligible, you must meet the entry requirements for a higher degree by research.

What We Can Offer

This Scholarship provides a stipend of $40,000 per annum tax-free, indexed annually for 3.5 years plus $6,000 p.a travel budget.

For further information on scholarships please refer to:


To discuss this role please contact Dr Glen Harris at

Want to Apply?

To apply for this admission and scholarship please visit –

Applications close: E. Australia Standard Time

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