Postgraduate research opportunities

Digitally interfaced high-speed LED-SPAD arrays for environment-aware wireless systems

This project will interface high density light-emitting diode arrays with single-photon detector arrays, operating in the MHz regime. Digital electronic interfaces will be developed to control the operation of at both emitter and receiver end.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


1 December 2018


30 March 2019


3.5 Years


UK and EU nationals only

Project Details

Digital cameras and active-matrix displays are powerful examples of how arrays of optical receivers and emitters can have transformative impact. At the Institute of Photonics, we are pushing high-density array technology into domains that have so far been reserved to single emitters/receivers: MHz operation rates, single-photon sensitive detection, and overhead signaling to ensure reliable operation in challenging conditions. Such systems will be the backbone of future environment-aware smart lighting, content-aware microscopy, and networked operation of nano-satellites.

At the Institute of Photonics we have an over 20 year long track record of fabricating micro-LED array emitters with pixel sizes of only a few microns in diameter and that can be switched at 100’s of MHz rates. In collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, we are pushing the envelope of interfacing these LED arrays with individual pixel digital control electronics, tackling a number of challenges. These include matching the driver electronics to the current-voltage characteristics of the LEDs, component switching speeds, digital data throughput, and aspects of fabrication and electrical connection.

In the past, such LED arrays were used in systems comprising a single detector, e.g. a photo-diode or avalanche photo-diode in communications systems, or a single photon avalanche diode (SPAD) in fluorescence lifetime measurements. Capitalising on recent developments of high-density SPAD arrays, a whole new range of applications is enabled that rely on the spatially resolved emission and detection by fully arrayed configurations. SPAD arrays are pixelated photo-detectors that, akin to digital cameras, have a digital output per pixel. Remarkably, they have a high sensitivity that allows detection of single photons and a very high (pico-second timescale) time-resolution of the photon detection. A significant challenge in the application of SPAD arrays is the management of the data-throughput generated by a large number of high-speed receiver pixels.

This project will develop systems comprising LED arrays and SPAD arrays, where the optical path between the two will be application specific: divergent emission through free space in satellite-to-satellite links, reflection off an object or transmission through an object in imaging applications. These applications will crucially be enabled by optical systems design and custom electronic hardware interfacing on the one hand, and on the other hand by the development of transmission/detection protocols and their application through firmware programming. The PhD student will have access to state-of-the-art, custom LED and SPAD array devices, optical characterisation facilities, printed circuit board design tools and software tools for firmware programming and interfacing with Computers.  The studentship is co-funded by Fraunhofer UK, giving access to their prototyping facilities and promoting collaborative work with technology users.

Institute of Photonics:

The Institute of Photonics (IoP), established in 1996, is a commercially-oriented research unit at the University of Strathclyde, the Times Higher Education UK University of the Year 2012/13 and UK Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2013/14.  The Institute’s key objective is to bridge the gap between academic research and industrial applications and development in the area of photonics.  The offices and laboratories of the IoP are based in Strathclyde’s Glasgow city centre campus.  We are part of the Strathclyde Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC) initiative and co-located with the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics.  Researchers at the IoP are active in a broad range of photonics fields under the areas of Photonic Devices, Advanced Lasers and Neurophotonics, please see:


How to apply

To enter our PhD programme applicants require an upper-second or first class BSc Honours degree, or a Masters qualification of equal or higher standard, in Physics, Engineering or a related discipline.  Full funding, covering fees and stipend, is available for UK and EU nationals only.


Applicants should send a CV to


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