• Careerwise Placement
  • Edinburgh
  • 14 January 2020

University of Edinburgh

Job title: Opto-mechanical automation for testing liquid crystal lasers Intern
Responsible To: Philip Hands & Calum Brown
Department: School of Engineering, The University of Edinburgh
Duration: 12 weeks
Salary: £18,009 pro rata
Placement Ref: EQU/2020/033

Job Specification

Job title: Opto-mechanical automation for testing liquid crystal lasers Intern
Responsible To: Philip Hands & Calum Brown
Department: School of Engineering, The University of Edinburgh
Duration: 12 weeks
Salary: £18,009 pro rata
Placement Ref: EQU/2020/033

1. Basic purpose of the placement and its primary objectives:

Liquid crystal lasers (LCLs) are an exciting area of research in photonics, with potential applications ranging from displays to medical imaging. Their broad wavelength selectability, small size and low cost make them an appealing alternative to other laser systems. Before an application can be realised, more work is needed to characterise the performance parameters. A LCL beam is produced by optically “pumping” a LCL cell with another laser system. Two figures of merit often stated in LCL literature are the threshold energy and laser efficiency: this is the minimum energy required by the pump beam to induce liquid crystal lasing and the LCL laser energy out vs pump laser energy in, respectively. Currently, the threshold and efficiency of the lasers are measured and calculated manually using a multi stage, inaccurate and time consuming method with the risk of introducing human error. The purpose of this placement is to automate this process and improve the accuracy and repeatability of the data. The objectives of this placement are to:

a) Develop an opto-mechanical system for automating the pump beam energy by precisely controlling a stepper motor
b) Simultaneously control the stepper motor while acquiring and plotting energy data from the energy meter software used to measure the input and output energies
c) Incorporate wavelength-dependent optical losses in the final data output to produce plots of the “true” values of the input and output energies.

There is the possibility to increase the scope of the project, depending upon the time in which the above objectives are completed. This would include programming another motor to spin the laser cell, both as a function of the laser repetition rate and independently. Automating fine tuning of the cell position along the optical axis at the focal point of the pump beam would be a further possibility.

This is an excellent opportunity for a student with an interest in photonics to apply their computational and experimental skills to a practical application. They will gain valuable experience in a laser lab while working in a multidisciplinary group of enthusiastic PhD students. Their contribution will be highly valued, as their work will form part of a current research project towards developing liquid crystal lasers for medical imaging.

2. Main duties:

a. Understand the performance parameters of an optically pumped laser
b. Write code to control opto-mechanical hardware
c. Extract data from the energy-meter software to simultaneously plot the input energy of a pump laser and output energy of a liquid crystal laser
d. Develop a desktop application for controlling stepper motors and plotting the energy data, with the option of incorporating variables such as input and output optical losses.
e. Assist with the experimental set-up configuration to minimise optical losses for optimum data acquisition
f. Write a user guide for the application and software developed during the placement to ensure lab users are able to understand and manipulate the code after internship completion.

3. Knowledge and skills required:

  1. Undergraduate student currently in 3rd year of an Engineering or Physics degree.
  2. Applications are also welcome from students studying a STEM degree discipline with a keen interest in experimental work, particularly in lasers and optics
  3. Proficiency in coding language for microcontrollers such as Arduino or Raspberry PI (eg. python, C) and/or experience with using LabVIEW
  4. Laser Safety is required for working on this project. Laser safety training by the school laser safety officer will be organised for the student before any work can be undertaken in the lab.

4. Person skills:

a. Good communication skills, both verbal and written
b. Ability to work independently and as part of a team who have an active interest in the outcome of the project
c. Good organisational skills and time management with the ability to work to deadlines set by the project supervisor.

5. Working conditions:

a. 50% of time will be spent on computational work in the lab:
i. developing code for controlling the opto mechanical set-up
ii. writing the application user guide and any instructions required for manipulating the code
b. 50% in using the optical set-up in the lab:
i. running/testing the software in the lab under the supervision of the current lab users
ii. optimising the experimental set-up with different optics/pump lasers/liquid crystal lasers.

The student will be made aware of lab rules which must be adhered to at all times.

How to Apply
Students should complete the online application form via the Equate Scotland website and attach a cover letter and a CV as separate documents, in PDF version and hit submit.
Please also make sure you note the placement reference number that you are applying for (highlighted in red above) as you will need this to complete the application form.
Closing Date: 14th January 2020