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Astronomical Instrumentation

This page lists all the PhD projects offered by Astronomical Instrumentation group. 

Large Ground-Based Telescopes


The Optical Science Laboratory (OSL) operates on two sites: the Gower St site of UCL, and the modern OpTIC Glyndwr technologybuilding (formerly, 'Technium OpTIC') in St Asaph, North Wales. OSL has exciting opportunities for PhD studentships in research areas related to the next generation of extremely large telescopes, space telescopes, industrial optics and medical physics.


As current 8m telescopes reach maturity, worldwide attention is turning to the next generation of larger telescopes. The UK's position is strengthened by its involvement in the European SouthernObservatory (see www.eso.org), which is developing the (recently re-sized) 39metre European Extremely Large Telescope. A series of 1.4m mirror segments arebeing manufactured at OpTIC under contract to ESO, as prototypes of the ~thousand segments required for the E-ELT.


Large and extremely large telescopes are providing new challenges in many areas of instrumentation science. OSL is contributing to some key areas, such as the automated manufacturing and measurement of mirror segments using computercontrolled techniques, the adaptive control of large mirror surfaces, and the development of novel instrumentation concepts to be deployed on these enormous telescopes. These developments will be closely related to the astronomical case for the E-ELT project, as it develops over the coming years, and will be conducted in partnership with several external organisations.


The forthcoming HiPER laser fusion project, for safe generation of almost unlimited energy, provides another avenue for prospective PhD students. The challenge of manufacturing the thousands of optical elements required is complicated by the damage that the laser beams cause to the optical surfaces. The lifetime of the optics is driven by defects under the optical surfaces, caused by processes in their manufacture. This gives fertile grounds for research in the physics of defect-creation, its quantitative measurement, the impact on laser damage threshold, and the optimisation of processes to maximize useful life.


At the other end of the spectrum, many of the techniques developed can be applied in much more mundane applications of industrial interest. PhD projects can be tailored around the particular skills and interests of candidates. Typical projects can range from highlyexperimental (optics, measurement-technology, electronics, mechanical design,process-development etc) at one extreme, to theoretical and computer simulation at the other. There is also considerable scope for software development, particularly in C++ and MATLAB. There is great opportunity for enthusiastic and capable students to make real contributions, and students who can participate in both experimental and theoretical/computing work are particularly valued.
Work on instrumentation and active/adaptive optics is conducted on-campus. The North Wales site hosts the National Facility for Ultra Precision Surfaces within the OpTIC building. This facility is equipped with modern CNC machines and measuring equipment for fabricating optics – currently to 1.2m diameter, being upgraded with new equipment to 1.6metres in 2008. This work is conducted in collaboration with the UCL spin-outZeeko Ltd (see www.zeeko.co.uk), and joint projects are possible in appropriate cases.

Contact: Dr Peter Doel (apd AT star.ucl.ac.uk);  Prof David Walker (ddwlkr AT aol.com)

Dr Giorgio Savini (gs AT star.ucl.ac.uk)

Page last modified on 16 sep 13 16:06 by Serena Viti