Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Light matter interaction and optical phenomena

This research area covers theoretical and experimental research in atom-light interactions, laser trapping, optical tweezers, spanners, traps and atomic optics.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Theoretical and experimental research into atom-light interactions, laser trapping and laser manipulation with optical tweezers, spanners, traps and atomic optics. This research area includes fundamental physics of nonlinear optical phenomena including non-linear pattern formation, periodic poling and non-linear dynamics, as well as light-scattering and holography for example.

This is an area that has a far-reaching impact in a wide variety of fields. For instance, it will be instrumental in the introduction of the next generation of imaging technologies that are innovative and disruptive.

We aim to increase engagement with industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to secure greater input from them, with an emphasis on the medium and long-term applications to which this area can contribute.

Provision to sustain the level of early career researchers in the area should ensure that the UK maintains its internationally leading reputation in certain fields. This would protect future capability within the UK research community.

We will continue to work with the community to enhance its integration and collaboration with other research areas, particularly Plasma and Lasers. In addition, we will expand links with researchers and end-users in other parts of EPSRC’s portfolio, such as:

Why we're doing it

There are internationally recognised UK groups active in light-matter interaction. Specifically, the excellence of their work in fields such as optical tweezers and traps is widely acknowledged, demonstrating that UK leadership and expertise in this research area is robust. The community’s interdisciplinary work often crosses into related research areas and feeds heavily into a number of others, especially Quantum Optics and Information, and Plasma and Lasers.

Although the nature of the research is fundamental, it has huge potential and attracts a high level of interest from various industries, including information and communication technologies, telecommunications and biotechnology, demonstrating its influence with regard to a large number of sectors critical to the UK economy.

The expansion in investment by countries in Asia and Europe (such as Germany) needs to be considered when thinking about the UK’s contribution to this research field and its ability to remain globally competitive. For example, many UK-based research projects are undertaken in collaboration with international partners, such as the Max Planck Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US. Furthermore, some of the research in this area is led by a number of national facilities, including the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the National Physical Laboratory. This reflects the high priority that the government places on this research area.

There is a strong level of support for training through the centres for doctoral training and doctoral training partnerships. This should be maintained as a proportion of the area’s portfolio. Provision for early career researchers in the field should continue to sustain the UK’s internationally leading reputation.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Light Matter Interaction and Optical Phenomena.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 27 July 2023

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