Optoelectronics and Biomedical Photonics

We perform cutting-edge experimental and theoretical research that pushes at the boundaries of photonic technologies, with a special emphasis on creating the next generation of tools and applications for the fields of biology and medicine

Our work has helped to improve the availability of photonics-based technology both inside and outside the world of medicine, with research into optimizing the size, portability and efficiency of lasers adding to the real-world impact of our research.

We aim to improve the process of diagnosing and treating some of the most challenging conditions facing healthcare and society, and to do this we study a wide range of compact high-power and ultrashort-pulse lasers and their interactions with different materials.  

These tools represent a critical step towards treating health issues, including: 

  • Age-related health issues 

  • Cardiovascular problems 

  • Neurological conditions.

We also work with companies and organisations across Europe to develop new imaging technologies, non- and minimally invasive diagnostic tools and treatments, as well as novel laser-based techniques for measuring microscopic changes in tissue. 

Alongside a host of biomedical and therapeutic applications, our research has also led to the development of technologies that could one day replace those we commonly encounter in our daily lives, such as new ultra-efficient high-brightness LEDs. 

Our Research

Our research concentrates on high-power and ultrashort-pulse compact lasers, emitting in the visible, near-IR, mid-IR and THz spectra ranges. Our research also covers nanostructures, nonlinear and integrated optics, and biophotonics. 

New types of lasers

Developing compact CW and ultrafast semiconductor quantum-dot and quantum-well based lasers (1-1.3μm spectrum) and quantum cascade lasers (2.7-3.4μm). 

Potential applications include: 

  • Biomedical imaging 
     
  • Nonlinear  frequency  conversion  (visible, mid-IR and THz spectra).

Other subjects of interest include lasers that are capable of operating at room temperature, as well as ultra-compact and potentially portable THz sources in the 0.3 - 1.5 THz region. 

New applications include: 

  • Safety and security applications 
     
  • Quality control 
     
  • Biophotonics.
Non-invasive diagnostic tools

This group has developed a non-invasive laser-based multimodal diagnostic system that utilises Doppler-shift, tissue oximetry and fluorescence spectroscopy. 
 
This system helps to improve the diagnoses and outcomes, including: 

  • Cardiovascular diseases (heart failure and ischemic stroke prognosis) 
     
  • Inherited skin diseases (scleroderma) 
     
  • Solid cancers 
     
  • Type 2 diabetes foot disorder evaluations.

Our Projects

We are currently conducting several major projects within the Aston Insitute of Photonic Technologies (AiPT), these are performed in conjunction with our national and international partners.

PULSE: High-Power Ultrafast Lasers Using Tapered Double-Clad Fiber

High-power ultrafast laser sources with pulse durations in femto- and picosecond range enabling virtually athermal material processing are in high demand for many industrial applications including cutting of hard materials and micro-welding of dissimilar materials used in car construction, high-speed surface micro-structuring etc.  

In our Horizon 2020 PULSE project we are developing a world record power 2.5kW laser system, capable of producing from picosecond down to femtosecond pulses at a repetition rate up to 1GHz with excellent beam quality. Utilizing state-of-the-art ultrafast semiconductor and advanced fiber lasers as compact low-cost seed sources provides excellent pulse control and flexibility of laser output. By harnessing the unique properties of patent protected tapered double-clad fiber amplifiers the pulse energy of a single emitter will be further increased up to 2.5-250μJ preserving excellent beam quality. Exploiting coherent beam combining from several laser emitters and novel delivery fiber capable of handling extremely high peak powers the laser output will be delivered to its target via patented polygon scanner operating at speeds of up to 1.5 km/s. 

Short pulse generation from SESAM free electrically pumped VECSEL

Passively mode-locked electrically pumped (EP) VECSELs are promising devices for the realization of ultra- compact, cost-efficient sources of ultrashort laser pulses. Such devices provide average output powers of tens of mW, picosecond pulse durations, and repetition rates of several GHz. Passive mode-locking is typically achieved by use of intracavity semiconductor saturable absorber mirrors (SESAM) or delayed optical feedback from external cavities.  

We have investigated the pulsed laser operation and pulse dynamics of an EP-VECSEL without intracavity SESAM and external feedback. We use a linear cavity consisting only of the VECSEL chip and a curved output-coupler. Careful adjustment of laser current and cavity length results in the generation of pico-second pulses with energies of the order of pico-Joules.   

The pulsed operation is self-starting, and single pulse operation is demonstrated. Numerical simulations based on delay-differential-equation (DDE) model is used to reproduce the regimes of operation (CW and pulsed) and pulse dynamics. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first observation of self-induced pulsing in an EP-VECSEL without SESAM and external feedback. 

Nikolai B. Chichkov, Amit Yadav, Anton V. Kovalev, Semyon V. Smirnov, Markus Herper, Ksenia A. Fedorova, Evgeny A. Viktorov, and Edik U. Rafailov, "Pulse dynamics in SESAM-free electrically pumped VECSEL," Opt. Express 28, 13466-13481 (2020) 

NEUROPA – Challenging Alzheimer's with Laser

A €3.6M EU Project NEUROPA, lead by Prof. Edik Rafailov, was launched to challenge and palliate the conditions of Alzheimer's and Huntington's Disease in affected patients utilising Lasers in Optogenetics.   

The project aims to implement the technology in mice model in the next 3 years. Successful completion of this milestone will, in a few years’ time, bring about relief to human patients suffering with these neurological disorders.  

“There is an enormous human toll of brain disorders in Europe, with an estimated 83 million people affected,” stated Prof. Edik Rafailov, Coordinator of the NEUROPA project: “Through NEUROPA, we hope to bring a transformative approach to address this great societal and healthcare challenge.” 

PLATFORMA – H2020 FET proactive project

Prof. Edik Rafailov and Dr. Sergei Sokolovski have been awardedd the H2020 FET PROACTIVE scheme project PLATFORMA, attracting €2 million for two years, with €360k going to the Aston team. 

PLATFORMA is a commercially driven collaboration to produce novel high-content phenotypic platforms for screening cosmetics, pollutants and new therapeutics. PLATFORMA proposes to create purpose-built, 3D modular human tissues supported by laser-printed bio-compatible scaffolds from which electro-physiological status of the cells can be monitored.  

Grants and Awards

AiPT has a successful track record in grants and awards. Current and previous grants include:

  • 2019-2020  Coordinator and Principal Investigator of FET OPEN Launchpad called SCAFFOLD-NEEDS (in collaboration with Laser NanoFab GmbH, Hannover) (€100k) 

  • 2020-2022  Lead Academic Researcher, People Marie Curie Action project (Dr V. Dremin, “Multimodal hyperspectral system for imaging of biological tissues glycation”, MultiBioScan) (value €225k) 

  • 2019-2021  Lead Academic Researcher, People Marie Curie Action project (Dr N. Chichkov, “Mid-infrared laser system for high-throughput bioprinting by laser-induced forward-transfer”, MIDLIFT) (value €213k) 

  • 2019-2020  Lead Academic Researcher, COFUND MULTIPY project (Dr S. Smirnov, iTERA) (value €60k)  

  • 2019-2023  Principal-investigator of H2020 project called PULSE (coordinated by Tampere University) (value €5.21M, Aston part €610k) 

  • 2018-2022  Principal-investigator of EPSRC grant proposal, “Compact THz based systems for neuroscience applications” (value £957k) 

  • 2017-2018  Principal Investigator in Innovate UK/EPSRC CoolBlue 2 project (led by CSTG Ltd) (value £495k) 

  • 2017-2019  Co-Investigator of Russian Ministry of Science and Education (№ 12.1223.2017/PCh) grant on “The methods of opening of the blood brain-barrier” (value €500k) 

  • 2017-2018  Principal Investigator in Innovate UK/EPSRC CoolBlue project (led by CSTG Ltd) (value £295k) 

  • 2017-2021  Principal Investigator in H2020 RISE project called VISGEN (coordinated by Birmingham University) (value €1.26M) 

  • H2020 FET MESO-BRAIN (value €3.3M) 

  • People Marie Curie Action project (Dr E. Zherebtsov, FORECAST) 

  • The Leverhulme Trust Visiting professorship (Prof K. Staliunas) 

  • The Fletchers Fund (value £125k)  

  • FP7 IDP project PHOQUS (value €3.8M) 

  • FP7 IAPP project ABLADE (value €2.4M) 

  • FP7 IP program NEWLED  (value €11.8M) 

  • FP7 R4SME project HiCore (value €1.7M) 

  • FP7 project NEXPRESSO  

  • FP7 IAPP project TERA (value €1.4M) 

  • People Marie Curie Action project (Dr Y. Ding, NiNTENDU-PULSE) 

  • FP7 IAPP project MEDILASE (value €1.7M) 

  • People Marie Curie Action project (Dr G. Sokolovskii, SeNDBeams) 

  • EPSRC grant (EP/H015795/1), “Compact diode-laser-pumped THz source based on a novel photomixer device.”  

  • People Marie Curie Action project (Dr E.Semenova) 

  • EU ERDF project (value €0.7M) 

  • FP7 IP program called FAST DOT (18 partners) (value €14.8M) 

  • EPSRC grant (EP/E005381), “Novel quasi-phase-matched semiconductor nonlinear crystals to generate light in broad wavelength ranges.”

Our People

Academic Staff
Research Fellows
Research Students
  • Mr. James Crowe 
     
  • Ms. Eleni Farmaki 
     
  • Mr.Nasir Garba Bello
     
  • Ms. Paulami Ray