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Working together for a brighter future. The Zepler Institute

Welcome to the Zepler Institute The Zepler Institute is a unique multidisciplinary research centre that brings together world-leading expertise in photonics, quantum technologies and nanoscience. Its pull-through philosophy – ‘Electrons to Enterprise’ – ensures the Institute’s pioneering discoveries match to the needs of industry. We explore the boundaries of knowledge to discover world-changing inventions that can create wealth and boost the UK economy. We achieve this through a combination of decades of experience, industrial awareness and commercial intelligence to match science to products for manufacture, either through our own spin out companies or industrial partners. This way, we develop cutting edge technologies wholly appropriate for the commercial world – from fundamental research into quantum devices and technologies, through ultra-high bandwidth communication technologies, to biophotonics for point-of-care diagnostics.

1. Cutting edge research The Zepler Institute is one of the largest research centres in the world dedicated to advanced materials, electronics and photonics, bringing together over 300 researchers in a unique multidisciplinary environment to focus on new technologies required for the 21st century. Page 4

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2. Research excellence Zepler Institute research provides innovative solutions for real life problems in health care, manufacturing, communication, technology, defence, renewable energy and the environment. Page 6 3. Spin outs The Zepler Institute has a strong track record in creating value from our research. We have spun out over 10 companies in the fields of photonics, sensing and energy harvesting during the last decade, creating hundreds of jobs in the local region. Page 12 4. State-of-the-art facilities The Zepler Institute Cleanroom Complex is our state-ofthe-art multidisciplinary centre for materials and device research in electronics, photonics and biotechnology. Page 14

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The Zepler Institute builds on pioneering discoveries in photonics and electronics that form the backbone of today’s global communications infrastructure. The erbium-doped fibre amplifier, invented and developed in the late 1980s at the University, is now a crucial component of the internet. Fibres developed at Southampton are found in the Moon Rover and Mars Explorer, they navigate airliners and are used in the manufacturing of life-saving medical devices. Rooted in Southampton’s rich heritage of innovation and discovery, the Zepler Institute has the University’s stateof-the-art £120M cleanroom facilities at its core. The Institute is led by Professor Sir David Payne, Director of the University’s internationally renowned Optoelectronics Research Centre. Acknowledged as one of the world’s most referenced and influential researchers, Sir David has received many prestigious awards including a knighthood for services to photonics.


Professor Sir David Payne Director



Cutting edge research The Zepler Institute is one of the largest research centres in the world dedicated to advanced materials, electronics and photonics. It brings together over 300 staff in a unique multidisciplinary environment that will enable researchers to focus on new technologies required for the 21st century. Our six core research groups: −− Electronics and Electrical Engineering −− Fibres and Lasers −− Nano −− Nanophotonics and Metamaterials −− Photonics Systems, Circuits and Sensors −− Quantum Light and Matter These are underpinned by a 2000m2 Cleanroom Complex, a vast range of material purification and synthesis laboratories, optical and electronic thick and thin film deposition, a suite of optical fibre drawing towers and nanofabrication within a Class 10 working environment.

Our research strategy has three broad themes: advanced materials and nanotechnology, electronics and photonics. These technologies enable numerous market sectors vital to growth in the global economy including aerospace, energy, healthcare and the environment. We believe that our multidisciplinary approach will unlock new research domains, develop cutting edge technologies and provide solutions for key societal challenges.

technology, calling upon quantum physics, spintronics, photonics and plasmonics. −− Integrated smart sensors: designing and fabricating various sensor systems (physical, bio(chemical), metamaterial, optical and microfluidic) integrated with specialised electronics. −− Biodevices: using technologies that enable tiny amounts of fluid to be manipulated and analysed on a chip.

Advanced materials and nanotechnology


Our research uniquely spans the fundamental properties of materials, numerous routes to their synthesis and device fabrication. Our work on new optical fibre materials saw some of the first speciality optical fibre emerge in the late 1980’s and in recent years we have established ourselves as world leaders in metamaterials. Major activities: −− Interaction of light with materials at the nanoscale: a large programme focussing on photonics and plasmonic devices and research interests in hybrid nanostructures and quantum optoelectronics. −− Advanced Materials: exploring new optical and electronic materials including metamaterials, graphene, transition metal oxides and sulphide to create new possibilities for electronic and photonics devices. −− Nanofabrication: a variety of processing equipment from atomic layer deposition, physical and chemical vapour deposition methods, electron beam lithography, wet, dry and ion beam etching for developing nanoscale devices is housed in our Cleanroom Complex. −− Nanomaterials: the fundamental understanding of materials such as carbon nanotubes, chemical engineering for deposition of new materials and topologies covering 0-dimensional nanostructures, such as quantum dots or nanoparticles, 1D nanowires, nanorods, nanofibres, nanobelts, nanotubes and 2D thin films, all potential building blocks for other structures.

Electronics 25 µm

SEM image “Mid-infrared Mach-Zehnder sensor”, by Dr Goran Mashanovich

Our roots in this discipline were firmly established by our namesake, Professor Eric Zepler, who founded one of the first Electronics departments at what is now the University of Southampton. Research over time has developed from producing radios used in World War Two through to the era of the silicon chip and CMOS technology, computer technology and web science. Major activities: −− Post-CMOS devices: exploring new nanomaterials and nanostructures to enable devices with functionality beyond the limits of CMOS-based

The University of Southampton made groundbreaking advances in developing the world’s first low loss optical fibre, building on this success with the invention of the erbium doped fibre amplifier, a key component of the internet. Since the formation of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) in 1989, photonics has become the most diverse of the Institute’s three themes. Major activities: −− Optical fibre fabrication: all aspects of fibre fabrication; from Materials Science and Chemistry to achieve the desired fibre composition, to Physics and Engineering developing novel structures and fabrication techniques. −− Fibre lasers: developing ever more powerful lasers and amplifiers, new wavelengths, fibre designs, pumping regimes and pulse characteristics, as well as customising and manufacturing for applications such as telecoms, displays and materials processing. −− Optical communications: focussing on new fibre technologies and multiplexing regimes to increase data transmission and bandwidth for video-ondemand, HDTV and internet gaming. −− Silicon photonics: a technology with the potential to revolutionise a range of application areas by providing excellent performance at moderate cost. Our work focusses on waveguides, optical modulators, grating couplers, optical filters and switches.

Work with us “Output is proportional to facility” – Professor Eric Zepler. We believe that the Zepler Institute rivals the world’s leaders in research. We encourage collaboration with industry and academia. If you are interested in working with us, please contact us by: Email: Web:


Transforming the fibre laser industry Research into high power fibre lasers at Southampton is having significant global impact on the industrial, defence, medical, and food and consumer sectors. The lasers offer increased efficiency, power and beam brightness, are much more compact, robust and far simpler to operate and maintain. The pioneering research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, has led to the spin out of two companies with a combined annual turnover in excess of £50M and which employ over 300 people in the local area. Fibre laser sales growth now accounts for 25% of the $3B per annum industrial laser market and Zepler Institute research is already being extensively used across a range of industries: −− Car manufacturers are using laser-based cutting and welding processes to produce stronger, safer, more fuel-efficient vehicles. −− Aerospace companies are using laser machining, welding and polishing to produce planes of reduced weight and aerodynamic drag. −− Food and consumer goods manufacturers are marking their products with fibre lasers. −− Medical component manufacturers are using the excellent beam quality and high power to produce precise devices.

Energy harvesting for autonomous systems Research being carried out in the Zepler Institute is at the global forefront of energy harvesting, reducing reliance on batteries by using motion to power wireless sensors and mobile electronics. Together with spin out company Perpetuum, Institute researchers are leading the way in developing devices that run on energy harvested from external sources. A micro-sized energy harvester powered by vibrations can power a wireless sensor for up to 25 years and can be used in inaccessible or hazardous locations. This enables the use of wireless sensors for the condition monitoring of industrial equipment without the costly, time-consuming process of replacing batteries. This research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Technology Strategy Board and the European Union, has spearheaded the development of a multi million pound industry. Zepler Institute researchers are also leading the UK’s £100,000 Energy Harvesting Network – an international network of academic and industrial researchers and users of energy harvesting.

Smart fabric energy harvesting technologies

Hand held device for point-of-care blood cell analysis

Remote medical diagnosis enabled by micro-technologies A new generation of portable electronic devices is offering greater flexibility and accuracy in diagnosing and treating chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, predicting and preventing heart attacks and helping people with autism. Researchers at the Zepler Institute are working with colleagues in Medicine to explore the latest advances in nanotechnology and micro-devices in order to deliver these new remote therapies to patients. Funding and collaboration with major multinational companies including Philips and Sharp, as well as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board, has seen the development of new devices and sensors that can count blood cells from a finger prick of blood. The new technology helps identify medical risks before they arise with patients, saving money that is otherwise spent in hospitals on emergency care.

Spin outs The Zepler Institute has a strong track record in creating value from our research. We have spun out over 10 companies in the fields of photonics, sensing and energy harvesting during the last decade, creating hundreds of jobs in the local region. Our spin out companies maintain strong links with us, sponsoring research and PhD students and providing a route through to the market place for new ideas, applications and technologies. Examples include: SPI Lasers SPI Lasers is a leader in fibre laser technology, focused on the development of highly effective laser solutions for macro, micro-machining, and marking applications. SPI’s core competencies in developing special optical fibres and Bragg gratings were initially applied to the manufacture of optical components for long-distance, high-speed telecommunications, but in 2002 the business was refocused on the design and manufacture

of fibre lasers for manufacturing. The company released its first commercial products at the Laser Show 2003. SPI Lasers was listed on the UK stock market in 2005 and was acquired by TRUMPF in September 2008. SPI now employs over 250 people and collaborates extensively with the University of Southampton in developing new fibre laser technologies.

Fianium Fianium is a global leader in the development and manufacture of ultrafast fibre lasers and laser systems. It was created by the University of Southampton ten years ago and has established itself as one of the world’s leading suppliers of compact, all fiberised supercontinuum sources. It now has an annual turnover of £10M and employs more than 50 people locally. More than 90% of the company’s products are exported and it has been recognised for its achievements with two Queen’s awards – in 2009 for International Trade and in 2012 for Innovation. Fianium maintains strong links with research at the Zepler Institute and every year it funds £100,000 of research at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Innovation Manufacturing in Photonics, based at the University.

Covesion Innovative optoelectronics company Covesion has had a major global impact since its launch four years ago.

agreed a major license deal with a company producing wavelength conversion materials for pico-projectors. It is also enabling a substantial, multi million pound market as a result of sales of its crystals – a market that would not be possible without their project. With consumer demand for laser projection technology growing rapidly, Covesion is set to maximise on this and be at the heart of this expansion.

Perpetuum Spin out energy harvesting company Perpetuum was established in 2004 and has already attracted almost £10M in venture capital. The company is a global leader in vibration energy harvesting and developed the world’s first practical electromagnetic vibration harvesting micro-generator that is capable of delivering enough energy to power industrial wireless sensors and to transmit large amounts of data. Perpetuum’s wireless sensor system is already monitoring the condition of bearings in hundreds of UK and European trains to improve rail safety and reduce maintenance costs, while its generators have been used by Shell to help monitor the condition of its gas field equipment.

Created to produce wavelength conversion crystals that can transform the colour of laser light, it is playing Perpetuum is continuing to lead the industry in realising a vital role in the rapid growth of energy efficient the full potential of vibration energy harvesting and laser projectors. ultimately replacing the millions of batteries that are Already the company has generated millions of pounds thrown away each year. of sales and has created a significant number of jobs. It is one of three leading companies in the world having an impact on the use of nonlinear crystals for energy efficient laser projectors and has recently

Further information For more information visit our website




Silicon wafer

Silica fibre drawing tower

State-of-the-art facilities The Zepler Institute Cleanroom Complex is our state-of-the-art multidisciplinary centre for materials and device research in electronics, photonics and biotechnology. It is home to the best set of nanoelectronics and photonics fabrication capability in the UK and offers a unique mix of expertise in established and cutting edge technologies, combined with a wide range of equipment for micro and nanofabrication and electronic and optical characterisation. Together with our partners in academia and industry, we are developing new technology solutions in many areas including healthcare, communications, energy and the environment, with examples including: −− new biosensors to carry out medical tests in people’s homes −− atomically thin graphene that can transform computers and electronics −− miniature sensors that can measure ocean conditions −− nanophotonics to provide brighter LED lighting and more efficient solar panels −− high power fibre lasers for manufacturing −− advanced fibre and integrated photonic devices for telecommunications Our facilities are available for use by researchers and engineers from across the University and by external organisations to explore materials, processes and


devices in electronics, photonics, nanotechnology and sensing or through the provision of consultancy services, drawing on the skills of our experienced staff. The Zepler Institute has strong links with industry, research institutions and universities around the world and we are open to collaborations that translate research into real world applications through our specialist knowledge and equipment.

Nanofabrication Our cleanrooms offer industry-compatible processing with a range of standard options, including 150mm and up to 200mm wafer processing. Our lithography capability combines photo- and electron beam lithography down to 20nm with nano-imprint and Hot Embossing as well as direct patterning using the Focused Ion Beam. Self-assembly fabrication of nanostructures is used to grow carbon nanotubes, semiconductor nanowires and quantum dots. Ultra-thin film deposition can be performed by atomic layer deposition or by PECVD for example to fabricate a range of IV/IV materials (Si, Ge, SiGe) and novel metal oxides. Deposition of high quality low loss optical layers are possible using Plasma Assisted

Reactive Magnetron Sputtering and multi-stack devices can be constructed using wafer-to-wafer aligning and bonding using anodic, thermal compression and polymer methods. We offer device fabrication using a wide range of materials and processes for silicon electronics, photonics, MEMs, Lab-on-a-Chip, and spintronics. One-off device/circuit fabrication or small volume production runs can be catered for.

Novel glass We offer specialised equipment for purification of raw materials, glass melting, thin film deposition and fibre drawing, with two customised 5m draw towers to produce compound glass and chalcogenide glass fibres.

Integrated photonics

Combined fabrication/characterisation capability includes dual Focussed Ion Beam with integrated SEM and SIMS. The many other measurement tools available include ellipsometry, XPS, Raman spectroscopy, cryogenic prober, RF measurements up to 60GHz, Field-Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FESEM), a range of AFMs and a Helium Ion microscope, the capabilities of which are being developed in collaboration with Zeiss.

This Class 1000 cleanroom is designed for planar processing of a wide range of raw, Zepler Institute made or commercial materials. Key capabilities include double-sided photolithography on samples from 10mm to 150mm, sputter and ion beam deposition, thermal and e-beam evaporation, ion-beam, reactive ion and wet etching, annealing and diffusion up to 2300°c and nanolithography capable of writing 10nm features. Characterisation capability includes surface profiling and electron microscopy, impedance spectroscopy and sheet resistance measurement.

Silica fibre


Our versatile Class 10,000 facility includes a full 6 metre fibre drawing tower complemented by cutting edge process advances. The facility is capable of producing the highest quality industry standard preforms of up to 60mm in diameter, optical fibres and a wide variety of speciality fibres with complex structures. Designed to fabricate and coat large diameter fibres and ribbon geometries, the tower forms part of our research into advanced devices including high power fibre lasers. Complete post-processing and characterisation of silica fibre includes preform and fibre refractive index profilers, fibre rewind and proof testing with capability up to 8kg and high resolution OTDR with mm spatial resolution.

Our Class 2 biological laboratories are suitable for working with human blood and tissue samples. These include separate laboratories for mammalian cell tissue culture and general biochemistry applications such as recombinant DNA, protein preparation and the integration of these biomolecules within photonic sensing methods.

Further information Contact us to discuss the various ways that we can work with your organisation to share our knowledge, expertise and facilities to deliver your specific fabrication and characterisation requirements.


Zepler Institute brochure  

The largest photonics and electronics institute in the UK. Read more about the Zepler Institute's world-changing research and state-of-the-a...

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