The Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Photonic Integration and Advanced Data Storage is a partnership between Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Glasgow and the Irish Photonic Integration Centre, which aims to tackle some of the challenges created by the increasing quantities of data generated by today's society.
The Centre's focus is on developing highly-manufacturable photonic integration technologies related to the magnetic storage of digital information. However, the development of these technologies will be relevant to a wide spectrum of end-users – from telecommunications to biophotonics, in which optical technologies are applied to living organisms and health care. Established in 2014 with substantial investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), both universities and industrial partners including Seagate, the industry leader in hard disc drives and storage solutions, the Centre will help to address a skills shortage in the photonics industry by educating fifty future scientists and engineers over the next eight years.
The ability to store digital information has become a growing concern, as the memory capacity of even the smallest of devices, such as smartphones, has grown exponentially. To continue to increase the capacity of hard disk drives required to support 'cloud' computing a new technology will be required – and that is likely to be heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), which uses electromagnetic energy to locally heat the disk to ease the process of writing data on to it. It would allow recording densities to continue to increase at the same rate as happened over the past decade.
HAMR requires the integration of photonic components such as lasers, waveguides and plasmonic antennas into the recording head. This exciting technology is the focus of the new CDT where the key challenge for the researchers is to make HAMR deployable as a low-cost manufacturable technology giving them a unique opportunity to undertake doctoral training and research on an industrially significant project.
The developments required by HAMR will drive low-cost photonic integration and plasmonic technology into other industries and applications. The Centre for Doctoral Training brings together a critical mass of partners from universities and industries that can meet this challenge, integrating expertise from material physics through to semiconductor device manufacture.
The CDT offers students a cutting-edge research environment to undertake a diverse and exciting range of topical doctoral research projects which cut across physics, materials and electrical and optical engineering through to applications as diverse as data storage and biosciences. Our doctoral training programme provides a framework for student cohorts to be educated, trained and to learn from industry best practice in distributed working whilst developing specialist technical skills alongside innovation and business skills.