Monthly Archives: January 2016

Here at QuantIC, we think it’s a good idea to get to know the team better and what we’re about and this week, we’d like to introduce you to one of our young researchers, Richard Middlemiss. Richard is currently studying for a PhD in the Schools of Physics and Astronomy, and Engineering at the University of Glasgow and is working with Dr Giles Hammond and Professor Doug Paul on QuantIC’s Wee-g, our ultra-sensitive miniature gravity sensor.

Richard Middlemiss 1

1. Can you tell us a bit more about the applied aspects of your research on Wee-g?
There are many different applications for gravimeters. They allow one to see things of different density underground. Perhaps the most ubiquitous use at present is in the oil and gas exploration industry. Although this industry is a target market for our work, the application that I’m most excited about personally is in volcanology. If you can see intrusion of magma you can aid volcanic eruption predictions. Since our devices have the potential to be so cheap, we could create networks of them around volcanoes to help predict eruptions and to negate the need for volcanologists to complete dangerous surveys with gravimeters that can’t be left in situ due to their enormous expense.

2. Have you worked with companies while doing your PhD and what was your experience like?
Yes, I have had many meetings and chats with different companies, but I’ve worked most closely with Bridgeporth Geophysics. Our contact there has had a very good understanding of the background physics/engineering of our device. This has made discussions very productive. It has meant that we have been able to keep our work focussed in a direction that will allow us to make the most useful commercial device.

3. What do you find most rewarding about your research?
The fact that I end up doing something different every day is a very rewarding part of my research – it’s what keeps me interested (I have a short attention span!). However, the most exciting part for me is seeing the progress towards tackling the applications discussed above. We are now building a field prototype, and the thought that we will be able to do real gravity surveys with a device that wasn’t even thought of 4 years ago brings a smile to my face!

4. What have you gotten out of doing your PhD with QuantIC?
Having spent three years doing the project I have a clearer idea of why it was a good decision for me to do a PhD in the first place: I have been able to push myself – and been pushed – to make the most out of my brain; I learn new skills every day; I get to work with great people with whom I can both learn and have fun.

As QuantIC’s focus is on translating research into technology applications, I have had the reward of seeing a vague idea of three years ago metamorphose into a computer model, then into broken trials, and finally into a fully functioning device with which I’ve been able to take incredibly exciting data (nothing beats a pretty graph sometimes); I have been able to apply for a patent and write papers; I have been able to travel the world to communicate my work to academics and the public; I have made a documentary, been interviewed on the news, and appeared on a chat show; I have done something different for each of the last 1,159 days of my PhD, and I’ve not been bored yet…

More information on Wee-g can be found here.


QuantIC had an early Christmas present in Dec last year when it had two new research papers published in leading photonics journals, Nature Photonics and Optica.
“Detection and tracking of moving objects hidden from view” (Gariepy, G, Tonolini, F, Henderson, R, Leach, J and Faccio, D) was featured in Nature Photonics and highlighted the development of a camera system that can see around walls and locate hidden objects with centimetre precision and then track their movement in real time. The system combines two pieces of equipment: a laser and a single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) camera, which captures 20 billion frames per second. The team has been able to detect objects behind walls and then track their movements within seconds. Previously, tracking movement was not possible.

HW_Light Around Corners

Professor Daniele Faccio from Heriot-Watt University said, “The ability to detect the3D shape of static, hidden objects has been demonstrated before, but the long acquisition time required by existing methods meant locating and monitoring the objects was a major challenge. We can now track hidden objects in real time and we’re still making discoveries about how the light identifies the objects, and can picture them in considerable detail.”

Rescue missions, negotiating dangerous terrain and in-car systems that help avoid collisions are some of the real-life applications the team are exploring with this breakthrough technology.

Read the paper in full here:

Check out video footage of the technology in action here:

Over at the University of Glasgow, “Photon-sparse microscopy: Visible light imaging using infrared illumination” (Aspden, R, Gemmell, N, Morris, P, Tasca, D, Mertens, L, Tanner, M, Kirkwood, R, Ruggeri, A, Tosi, A, Boyd, R, Buller, G, Hadfield, R and Padgett, M) was published in Optic and introduced a new wavelength transforming ghost imaging technique.

Conventional imaging systems rely upon illumination light that is scattered or transmitted by the object and subsequently imaged. Ghost imaging systems based on parametric down-conversion use twin beams of position-correlated signal and idler photons.  One beam illuminates an object while the image information is recovered from a second beam that has never interacted with the object.

In their research, QuantIC’s researchers used a camera-based ghost imaging system where the correlated photons had significantly different wavelengths but still allowed the irradiation of an object with low energy, infrared photons whilst still making use of a visible wavelength, highly sensitive camera.

Photon Imaging

Professor Miles Padgett said, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time ghost imaging has been performed with such a large ratio between signal and idler wavelength and certainly the first time that this has been combined with an array type detector. The ability to translate the image information from infrared to visible wavelengths has potential for imaging light-sensitive specimens or where covert operation is desired.”

Read the paper in full here: