Postgraduate research opportunities uLED-based lab-on-chip platform


Key facts

  • Opens: Thursday 1 February 2024
  • Deadline: Sunday 30 June 2024
  • Number of places: 1
  • Duration: 48 months
  • Funding: Home fee, Stipend


This project will research and develop a novel lab-on-chip platform for the detection of analytes with potential uses in bio-medicine, defence and security, and environmental monitoring. The platform will combine two innovations: (i) microsize LEDs to interrogate the sensing assays and (ii) colloidal nanomaterials, and related structures, for enhancing the sensitivity of the assays. The PhD student will have access to state-of-the-art laboratory infrastructure and scientific expertise.
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As a minimum we require candidates to have a First-Class or 2:1 MPhys or MEng degree or an MSc with merit (over 60%) in a relevant area. Applicants who have a First-Class BSc/BEng (Hons) and can demonstrate significant relevant industry/research experience may also be considered.

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

Detection and identification of various analytes is crucial in applications spanning through bio-medicine, defence and security, environmental monitoring and various others. Many techniques have been demonstrated over the years, with varying levels of complexity and breath of information they generate, somewhat limiting their applications at the point of need. However, technological progress now allows shrinking bulky laboratory instruments into dedicated, miniature devices, in turn offering lightweight, compact and portable sensing solutions. This project aims to develop such a sensing solution with a novel lab-on-chip platform that combines two innovation strands: (i) the technology of microsize LEDs (µLEDs) to interrogate miniature sensing assays; and (ii) colloidal nanomaterials, and related structures, for enhancing the sensitivity of the optical assays.

The primary focus (i) is capitalising on the advantages brought by the development of high density, high modulation bandwidth µLED arrays pioneered by the Institute of Photonics (IoP) of the University of Strathclyde. These arrays can be realised with geometry, emission wavelength and modulation speed tailored to the needs of the application. Crucially, the compact size of each µLED emitter (pixel), coupled with their monolithic integration to a CMOS driver, allows for an extremely compact form factor and an exquisite control of the illumination’s spatio-temporal properties. Utilising these devices as an excitation source for optical assays combined with detector arrays and microfluidic structures, throughout a variety of functionalised materials, offers a route to a unique lab-on-a-chip technology for sensing.

The secondary focus (ii) is on the engineering of optical assays with enhanced sensitivity, relying for example on a change of colour or other spectral properties to detect analytes, enabled by the combination of colloidal inorganic nanoparticles and resonating structures, and their surface functionalisation.

This exciting opportunity to develop such a lab-on-chip system, builds on the spectroscopic work of the team at the Fraunhofer centre and is anchored in the extensive expertise of the team at the IoP in combining µLEDs and nanomaterials, i.e., interfacing Photonics and Life Sciences, to generate novel sensing modalities. The prospective student will be exposed to the opto-mechanical, electronic and spectroscopic instrumentation design as well as embedded instrument control and data extraction. In parallel, she/he will study functionalised assays and microfluidics platforms complementing the lab-on-chip approach. As such, this represents an ideal challenge for a candidate exhibiting strength in experimental physics and electronic engineering, as it encompasses photonics, electronics and instrumentation control, with an interest to contribute to life sciences environment.

This applications-focused EngD project is centred on developing a lab-on-chip platform based upon the combination of the µLED technology with microfluidics and functionalised nanoparticles. The project will be led between Photonic Materials and Devices group at the Institute of Photonics of the University of Strathclyde, and the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics in Glasgow – the first Fraunhofer centre in the UK.

Such a collaboration plays to the strengths and aspirations of both institutions who share a common desire to contribute to the knowledge-based economy through high-technology innovation.

The applicant will work in a vibrant, collegiate and supportive environment with access to state-of-the-art laboratory infrastructure and scientific expertise.

Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (Fh-CAP): Fraunhofer CAP develops lasers and optical systems for applications including energy, security, environment, sensing, space, life sciences and quantum technologies. The core competencies at Fraunhofer CAP extend from applied research and development through to design, testing and characterisation of systems and modules as well as building pre-production prototypes. Our principal aim is to perform industry driven research to enable new or improved products and processes for industrial partners. Photonics and optical technologies are enabling technologies which address a wide range of markets.

Institute of Photonics: The Institute of Photonics (IoP), part of the Department of Physics, is a centre of excellence in applications-oriented research at the University of Strathclyde.  The Institute’s key objective is to bridge the gap between academic research and industrial applications and development in the area of photonics. The IoP is located in the £100M Technology and Innovation Centre on Strathclyde’s Glasgow city centre campus, at the heart of Glasgow’s Innovation District, where it is co-located with the UK’s first Fraunhofer Research Centre. Researchers at the IoP are active in a broad range of photonics fields under the areas of Photonic Devices, Advanced Lasers and Neurophotonics.

Strathclyde Physics is a member of SUPA, the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance.

The University of Strathclyde has, in recent years, been the recipient of the following awards: The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education 1996, 2019, 2021 & 2023; Times Higher Education University of the Year 2012 & 2019; Daily Mail University of the Year 2024 Runner-Up; Daily Mail Scottish University of the Year 2024; Triple E European Entrepreneurial University of the Year 2023.

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Funding details

The funding covers the full stipend and tuition fees at the home rate (not the international rate). To be classed as a home student, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter
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Primary supervisor: Dr Adam Polak (Industrial Supervisor - Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics)

Additional supervisor: Dr Nicolas Laurand (Academic Supervisor)

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Applicants should send an up-to-date CV to in the first instance.

Number of places: 1

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Contact us

For further details, contact