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Institute of Photonics and Optical Science

Our research spans all areas of optics and photonics
Established in 2008, the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science (IPOS) draws together research and teaching expertise across the Schools of Physics, Electrical and Information Engineering, Mathematics, and Chemistry.
Ben Eggleton and a student.

Our aims

Our aim is to provide Australia with the innovation, scientists and engineers to maintain and enhance our role as the region’s leading provider of photonics research and education.

We link research and postgraduate teaching programs across science and engineering to create a world class centre with academic, research staff and postgraduate students.

Our research

Our research spans all areas of optics and photonics, both fundamental and applied, including those of the Fibre Optics and Photonics Laboratory in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering, and astronomical instrumentation (Astrophotonics) programs of the Sydney Institute for Astronomy in the School of Physics.

Our research program is broadly based, encompassing theory and experiment, with a particular focus on planar and fibre-based lightwave devices and circuits, plasmonics and photonics in nature, and on innovative optical and fibre-based techniques for astronomy.

Our research groups collaborate to make us the most substantial photonics and optical science group in Australia: from advanced analysis and simulation through to applied experimental research and development.

Our world-class research facilities provide a significant advantage our staff and students, allowing IPOS to be leaders in the competitive international research environment.

Areas of research

Key staff:

Nanophotonics studies the behaviour light when light-matter interactions occur at the sub-wavelength scale. In such a regime, light can be harnessed to enable new technologies including high-resolution imaging, single-molecule sensing, highly sensitive diagnostics, ultra-fast communication, quantum science, nonlinear photonics and neuromorphic applications. Nanophotonic technologies are attractive because of their potentially high speed, large energy efficiency, multiplexing capability, and extreme compactness; current solutions are however still either too bulky or suffer from high Ohmic losses of metals, which is required for deep subwavelength light confinement. One approach that we are taking is through appropriately designed “hybrid” devices that can overcome the drawbacks of traditional solutions, providing high confinement and low losses. Another approach is to develop plasmonic devices which use the full advantages of metals (high field compression, huge field enhancement, localized light at the nanoscale) but are extremely small in order to minimize the effect of the loss.

Our research encompasses the design (through pen-and-paper theory and numerical simulations on full-field photonics modelling software), fabrication (at the next-door world-class Research Prototype Foundry), and state-of-the-art equipment (Nanophotonics and Plasmonics Advancement Lab (NPAL)) of such novel nanophotonic structures, with an eye on integration with next-generation photonic circuitry.

The Nanophotonics and Plasmonics Advancement Lab (NPAL), located in the School of Physics, aims to develop and experimentally test the next generation of linear/nonlinear/quantum integrated photonics devices. The NPAL is a world class Nanophotonic and Nanoplasmonic experimental facility equipped with a state-of-the-art femtosecond-OPO laser system (Coherent) for visible and infrared experiments along with a Near Field Scanning Optical Microscope coupled with our fs laser source and our single photon detector setup for Nano-Optic research (neaSpec) and a wide range of other vital equipment necessary to achieve breakthroughs in Nanophotonics such as:

  • In-house developed nano-Frequency Resolved Electrical Gating (nano-FROG): for time- and phase-resolved ultrasensitive (sub-pJ) characterisation of ultrashort pulses of light (sub-ps).
  • In-house developed double Hanbury Brown and Twiss (HBT) interferometer coupled to highly sensitive single photon detectors (ID Quantique): for single-photon and correlated photon measurements, essential for any quantum optics investigation
  • Commercial imaging spectrometer equipped with NIR and VIS cameras (Princeton Instruments): essential for collecting images and spectra of any device we develop.
  • In-house developed LabView interface: this controls all the equipment including a nanopositioner (Mad City Lab) on a Nikon Microscope system.
  • Z-scan setup and pulse picker for characterizing the nonlinear properties of novel materials while mitigating thermal effects

Key staff:

Microstructured Polymer Optical Fibre (MPOF) is a new type of fibre developed at The University of Sydney. The development of MPOF was inspired by the Photonic Crystal Fibres pioneered by the University of Bath, however our research directions are often different from those in explored in silica. The fabrication techniques we use allow us to make and study structures that would be very had to make in silica, and we can also incorporate material additives such as dyes, quantum dots and metal inclusions.

Major research areas have included: highly multimode graded index mPOF (GImPOF) for high data rate transmission over short distances, Photonic bandgap fibres (including those with novel geometries), sensors and functionalisation of the fibres with additives or coatings. Our current research focus is largely on biomedical devices, especially taking advantage of our recent breakthrough in drawing low Young's modulus polymers.

Key staff:

This research applies fibre drawing techniques for the fabrication of metal-dielectric composites for metamaterials. Although this only allows longitudinally invariant structures to be made, it does allow for a wide range of material properties to be achieved through the creation (and possible combinations) of basic metamaterials such as wire arrays and split-ring resonators. It also provides a scalable fabrication technique for the production of metamaterials. Moreover, the use of low Young's modulus dielectric host allows for tunability of the electromagnetic properties of the metamaterials.

Key staff:

The fabrication of structured fibres and metamaterials in glasses and polymers (with both high and low Young's modulus) allows the realization of devices to manipulate radiation at THz frequencies. Currently, metamaterial-cladding waveguides are investigated to guide radiation in subwavelength structures, flexible waveguides are used to manipulate radiation, e.g. generation of orbital angular momentum, and hyperlenses are used for focusing and imaging far below the diffraction limit.

Key staff:

This research investigates applications of fibre drawn structures for medical applications. Such applications span from tissue investigation with fiber catheters to optical fiber sensors embedded into wearables for monitoring of respiration, heartrate, blood pressure.  

Key staff:

This research investigates the use of non-toxic (arsenic-free) highly nonlinear chalcogenide glasses for applications in the mid-Infrared. The current focus is on the fabrication of dispersion tailored microstructured fibres for supercontinuum generation with such glass.

Key staff:

This research program includes poling of silicates glasses and silica fibres and focuses on modifying the properties of silicate glasses, particularly through the application of intense electric fields, to induce strong non-linear behaviour.

Key staff:

Located in the School of Electrical Engineering, the FPL specialises in research into advanced optical techniques for information systems. This involves fundamental research into photonics, and projects with industry. The research focuses on photonic signal processing, optical fibre lasers, microwave photonics, nonlinear fibre optics, and dense wavelength division multiplexed communications.

Key staff:

Situated in the School of Physics at the University of Sydney the Eggleton research group is led by optical award-winning physicist Prof. Benjamin J. Eggleton. It enjoys a rich complement of optical physics and optoelectronics research working closely on some of the most innovative topics in photonic sciences.

The research is conducted in state-of-the art laboratories, located in the Sydney Nanoscience Hub and in the School of Physics and are constructed to enable every technological advantage.

The Eggleton Group is part of the Sydney University Institute of Photonics and Optical Science (IPOS) the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) and is a member of the University of Sydney Nano Institute.

Learn more about the Eggleton Research Group.

Key Staff:


  • Kevin Tam
  • Joshua Lourdesamy

We have in-house developed Frequency Resolved Electrical Gating: For time- and phase-resolved ultrasensitive (sub-pJ) characterisation of ultrashort pulses of light (sub-ps).

Our recent experimental discovery of pure-quartic solitons opens up a new field of research in optics and has the potential to revolutionise the ultrafast laser realm – see our 2016 Nature Communications paper. We are currently working in this topic from two perspectives: new nanophotonic experiments and theoretical studies that will unveil the fundamental physics governing this novel type of optical wave; and a more applied line of work aiming to develop the first PQS laser – a simple, efficient, high-power ultrafast source, could yield tremendous benefits in laser surgery of human tissue and material processing.

Key Staff:


  • Michelle Wang

Key facilities:

  • Dilution Refrigerator
  • Superconducting nanowire single photon detectors

We are investigating novel states of light in topological systems. These are platforms that can provide extremely robust light propagation thanks to certain global properties of the structure called topological invariants. We recently demonstrated the first nanophotonic topological system using silicon waveguides – have a look at our Physical Review Letters. In an effort to advance towards robust quantum optical circuits we started investigating topological protection of quantum states of light and we have recently successfully demonstrated topological protection of correlated multiphoton states. One of our most important goals in this line is to achieve topological protection of entangled quantum states in a nanophotonic platform.

Key staff:

MP2 research group, based in the School of Chemistry, is part of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science (ACEx), whose primary mission is to manipulate the way light energy is absorbed, transported and transformed in advanced molecular materials. Our research in the School of Chemistry underpins various research projects within the ACEx and beyond. Our key focus is on investigating the optoelectronic properties of novel nanoscale semiconductor materials for solar energy harvesting, polarisation switching and polariton lasing.

Learn more about the MP2 group.

Key staff:

Optical and photonics instrument science and research are crucial to advances in astronomy. SAIL laboratories is at the forefront of the cross-disciplinary area of Astrophotonics, which lies at the interface of astronomy and photonics. This burgeoning field, now formally recognized by the international photonics community, has emerged over the past decade in response to the increasing demands of astronomical instrumentation.

SAIL researchers develop novel optical instrumentation for high angular resolution imaging, and photonic instrumentation for removal of emission from hydroxyl lines and advanced spectroscopy. These novel concepts developed at SAIL are now being explored for the new generation of extremely large telescopes, space technologies and industry projects.

Learn more about SIfA and SAIL.


The research programs and teaching in IPOS are underpinned by world-class facilities. Some of these are solely “in-house”, whilst the OptoFab Facilities are available to external users through the NCRIS program coordinated by ANFF.

OptoFab sydney

Major IPOS facilities are made available to the research community through the NCRIS (National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy) program as part of the OptoFab node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF)

IPOS provides OptoFab with a range of speciality fibre fabrication, processing and characterisation facilities for exacting research requirements.

The facilities include a complete suite of equipment for fabricating microstructured polymer optical fibres, advanced tapering facilities for substantially modifying the properties of a wide range of fibre types and key specialised (EXFO) characterisation equipment.

Microstructured polymer optical fibre (MPOF) facilities

The OptoFab facility specialises in microstructured polymer optical fibre(mPOF), mPOF preform fabrication and fibre characterisation and post-processing. This facility is up and running and available to NCRIS users. The majority of work undertaken historically can be divided into three categories: single-mode, multi-mode high bandwidth and hollow-core mPOF.

The main equipment is a commercial polymer fibre draw tower. This was custom-built by Heathway and installed in 2004. The tower has two sides which can accommodate 80 mm diameter and 25 mm diameter preforms respectively. Fibre diameters in the range 100 – 1000 microns are possible, whilst 200 – 600 are more typical. The furnaces reach 270 C, although furnaces capable of 1000 C will be available from 2009 to widen the variety of materials that can be drawn. Fibre diameter, temperature and tension are monitored and pressure or vacuum may be applied whilst drawing.

Related facilities include a CNC mill for preform fabrication. Basic characterisation of the fibres will also be available (transmission loss, optical and SEM microscopy), as well as limited processing (e.g. imprinting of long period gratings in single-mode mPOF for strain sensing).

The majority of fibre fabrication uses PMMA, although polycarbonate and polystyrene have also been used. A variety of organic and inorganic dopants may also be incorporated into the polymer.

Fibre characterisation facilities

OptoFab provides the EXFO NR9200 HR which is state of the art commercial equipment for characterising optical fibre. It produces high resolution 2D maps of the Refractive Index Profile (RIP) and of the Mode Field Distribution (MFD).


  • Singlemode & Multimode Fibers
  • Refractive index profile
  • Core and Cladding Geometry
  • Mode Field Diameter at 1310nm & 1550nm
  • Chromatic Dispersion
  • Cutt-Off Wavelength Analysis
  • Numerical Aperture
  • Alpha Parameter
  • Contour Analysis
  • 3D Raster Scans


  • Measure RIP of both singlemode and multimode fibers to a RI resolution of <=0.00005
  • Measurement of fibers of different diameters between 80 to 500 microns
  • Wavelengths: 1300nm and 1550nm
  • Measurements to international standards (TIA/EIA 455165A, 191 & 44B, as well as G650 & 651)

The EXFO permits us to characterize fibres made or supplied to researchers. It also permits us to supply specialty silica fibre from our large inventory of specialty fibre made previously by OFTC. These include photosensitive, high birefringence, small core and rare-earth doped fibre. We cannot make to order but we can seek to match your needs from stock.

Fibre tapering facilities

The fibre tapering facilities comprise three taper rigs, taper rig#2, taper rig#3 and taper rig#4.

Taper rig#2, uses a combination of three, 100mm travel AEROTECH stages, three 25mm travel Newport stages and a custom made rotational stage. Taper rig#2 is currently configured with a naturally aspirated, air/butane burner and operates with the standard flame brushing technique.

The system is capable of producing tapers in standard SMF and MM silica fibres and micro-structured fibres such as “Grape Fruit Fibre ” (GFF), and Photonic crystal fibre (PCF). Taper rig#2 is located next to the clean room and routinely produces micron and sub-micron diameter tapers for use as evanescent field probes to couple light into photonic crystal waveguides and micro-cavities. Nano-wire tapers down to 200nm diameters have been fabricated on taper rig#2.

To augment these capabilities, a microscope with a CCD camera is coupled with the taper rig’s translation stages to form a fibre taper profiler. This has a pixel resolution of 0.5um and this allows a user to produce tapers and then characterise their shape. The machine has a suite of custom design tools which were developed for the facilities.

Taper rig#3 was designed to taper chalcogenide fibre which is a soft-glass with a low melt temperature. Resistive heating is used. This facility has produced chalcogenide tapers as long as 25cm and low loss tapers with waist diameters down to 800nm. These are primarily used to produce dispersion engineered tapers for non-linear signal processing applications and low threshold supercontinuum generation. The taper rig has been routinely tapering 20cm long, low loss tapers having waist diameters between 1 and 2um in diameter and waist lengths of 5cm.

In addition to tapering As2S3 and As2Se3 fibres, preliminary developments in tapering polymer (PMMA) micro-structured fibres has also been undertaken.

Taper rig#4 is designed around 150mm travel, THORLABs stages. The rig uses a CO2 laser as a heating source. Whilst the laser is an industrial Class 4 laser, the taper rig system has been engineered to comply has a Class 1 product. The laser energy is incident onto a sapphire tubing furnace and the beam power is actively monitored and stabilised by an automatic gain control circuit.

This system has produced tapers to 1um in diameter with tapering loss as low as 0.03dB. The taper rig features automated taper design software, fibre profiler and is fully computer controlled. The tapering software interfaces for controlling all the rigs have a similar look and feel. After suitable training, this allows users to effortlessly transition and move been different machines. Taper rig#4 is suitable for tapering MM, SMF and micro-structured silica fibres.



Interaction with industry

The Institute of Photonics and Optical Science is managed by the director, deputy director and with the assistance of the executive and advisory committee. Advisory committee members include members from various industries.

Research collaborations

IPOS has a large range of facilities and equipment that are available for research work and provides industry and the wider research community with access to state of the art fabrication facilities.

Linkage projects                 

Linkage Projects allow collaborative research and development projects, between IPOS and other organizations such as industries, to apply superior knowledge to problems. Linkage Projects provides the opportunity for researchers to practice internationally competitive research in collaboration with other organizations and industries. Linkage Projects also develops and encourages strong research alliances with many industries.


Through NCRIS funding infrastructure projects, NCRIS has given the opportunity to access major infrastructure for those IPOS research work. The NCRIS support increase collaboration and networking with relevant industries.

Slow Light and Photonic Crystals

IPOS is exploring a new method, photonic crystals, to slow the light down through a medium and allow light to be reflected. 

Development of Polymers

A particular type of polymer optical fibre, which is the micro structured polymer fibre, uses a pattern of holes to achieve their optical properties. Those patterns can be manipulated to control the optical properties. IPOS is challenged with the fabrication process and understanding the optical properties of the polymer optical fibre.     

Butterfly Technology

Iridescent butterflies achieve their colouration through a tiny microstructure in their scales. There are many reasons to anaylse iridescent butterflies but the main reason is that all biological systems are the product of evolution and trial and error experiments. 

History of Light as Data

Recent scientific developments include making optical fibres exceptionally transparent. That scientific progress allows fibres to transmit over long distances and allows the transmission of signals to be controlled so large amounts of information can be loaded into the fibre. The ability to make fibres transmit data around corners and bends required the development of pure materials. 

Our people

The IPOS Advisory Board was formed to review the development of IPOS and to advise on future directions and strategies. The board includes:

  • Professor Trevor Hambley (chair) 
    Emeritus Professor, The University of Sydney
  • Professor Kim Rasmussen
    Dean of Engineering, The University of Sydney
  • Mr Jim O’Connor 
    Westpac; also President of the Science Foundation for Physics
  • Dr Peter Leihn
    Director, Security and Environment Business Team, NICTA
  • Dr Stephen Hardy
    Technology Director, Data Analytics, NICTA
  • Professor Perry Shum
    Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore
  • Professor Richard Blaikie
    Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, University of Otago, New Zealand
  • Mr Tomonori Hu 
    IPOS student

C Martijn de Sterke

  • +61 2 9351 7726
  • Room 307 Physics A28