The ambitious goal of this Programme is to challenge and overcome current limits in the generation, propagation and penetration of light. We will achieve this by developing new approaches to the field of structured light – the shaping of dielectric photonic materials and the phase fronts of optical beams – leading to major advances in Photonics and its applications.
Photonics has tremendous potential yet is presently constrained by a number of issues including the diffraction barrier, resolution limit and the lack of penetration (just hold a laser pointer against your forefinger – the light does not go through!). The constraints extend to the sources themselves: namely their physical size and rigidity. Overcoming these constraints in a cohesive fashion constitutes a Grand Challenge in Science and aligns to the “Imaging at the limit” and “Understanding the Physics of Life” challenges put forward by EPSRC. Exceptional advances by our team have indicated that light can penetrate through turbid media, be constrained to irradiation volumes significantly smaller than the diffraction limit and that novel sources can be made flexible and portable. We propose to break through established barriers (e.g. diffraction limit, resolution limit, penetration limit) by coherent control of photonics: shaping the intensity, phase and polarisation of light simultaneously. This will provide a paradigm shift in fundamental photonics that offers ground breaking benefits to imaging, diagnosis and treatment, as well as delivering novel integrated devices for biomedical sensing and treatment. Our goal is to lead and set the international agenda in this area.