Glass smithing on the micro and nano scales


Dating as far back as 3500 years when the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians began glazing pottery, glass processing and “smithing” has evolved into many forms culminating with the drawing of optical fibres hundreds of kilometres long. Today, we try and process glass on smaller and smaller scales with the equivalent of on-line glass blowing enabling submicron and nano- features stretching the entire length of these micron wide optical fibres. Despite remarkable advances in composition and scalability, the thermal processing itself remains crude and inflexible, not altogether different all those years ago. In an alternative pathway, we have shown by using laser processing to seed differences between glass regions, it is possible to alter the relaxation of glass during annealing in different areas with sub-micron resolution. This gives rise to processes such as “regeneration” where a seed structure that appears to anneal away is reborn and is much more stable than the initial seed structure. For example, within optical fibres, we have used both UV laser and near IR femtosecond lasers to increase the thermal stability of fibre gratings to unprecedented levels. This offers a potentially powerful solution to the grand challenge of thermally annealing and processing glass down to sub-micron dimensions. But more remains to be done to fully understand.


Professor John Canning

Research Location

School of Chemistry

Program Type



This project will resolve to explore and understand the limits of laser seeding and thermal processing, the role of dopants in glass (including Bi, Al, P and so on) and what happens to these at all stages. The relaxation of the glass and the way different regions interact, the way dopant diffusion mitigates or impacts on this process and the role of stresses in optimising regeneration. The project will look at ways of expanding this technology beyond one dimension within optical fibres as well as explore potential new applications to demonstrate the capability as well as test the limits. For some information in this area see:

Additional Information

Working on this project, you will use lasers of various sorts, learn about optical fibres and characterise them including dopants, photonics and photonic components such as Bragg gratings and their spectral characterisation, glass and photosensitivity, thermal annealing, and use various optical test equipment and more. Australian and New Zealand citizens should apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award, International Students should apply for scholarship funding through the International Office and Science Faculty schemes.

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optical physics, chemistry, waveguide, integrated optics, nanophotonics, nanotechnology, photonics, glass, materials, silica, optical fibre

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1552

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