Engineering Photonics at Cranfield University is one of the UK’s leading optical sensing and instrumentation research centres. The department’s research portfolio is broad, encompassing fibre optic sensors, optical flow measurement instrumentation, speckle interferometry, spectroscopic gas detection and medical imaging. The emphasis of our activities lies in the development of instrumentation to tackle engineering measurement problems, while offering scope for more speculative, blue sky research.
Our department comprises about 25 people: academics, post-doctoral researchers, post-graduate research students, a technician and an administrator, and is led by Professor Ralph Tatam, who has worked in this area for more that a quarter of a century. Over the years we have published a large number of research papers, patented a few things, and used many of the instruments that we have developed in anger, in real-world environments, making measurements that are often not possible using other technologies. We work on solving measurement problems on different scales; recently we have placed optical fibre sensors in large objects and structures with the aim of measuring physical parameters like strain, temperature and pressure, in superconducting magnets, inside composite materials used in the manufacture of aircraft, on railway tracks and in concrete foundation piles. At the other end of the scale we are examining the influence of individual molecular layers of materials, deposited onto an optical fibre device, on the transmission spectrum of the optical fibre with the aim of highly sensitive and selective detection of chemicals.
We have also been developing gas sensors to detect the concentration of greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane, and developing medical imaging techniques to look under the surface of the skin. The historical origin of the group can be traced back to a desire to make measurements of the flow of air through jet engines, and is area in which we still have interest.