UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory wins Faraday Partnership.

The Department of Trade and Industry, Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council have announced the winners in the latest call for Faraday Partnerships. These partnerships involve a close liaison between academia and industry, and will involve joint research programmes, postgraduate training, and technology translation. The DTI providing 1.2m to fund the partnership for 3 years while the research councils are providing a further 1m for flagship research projects. Matching funding is expected from industry.

The Partnership hosts are Sira Electro-optics (an independent research organisation), UCL/MSSL and the Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh. MSSL will be responsible for liaison with the space sector and the coordination of the postgraduate training programme.

The subject covered by the centre is 'Smart Optics'. The domain of Smart Optics includes optical systems, subsystems, devices and technologies that dynamically adjust to provide an enhanced performance or are part of a complex control loop, including novel supporting technologies. Relevant technologies include:

  • Adaptive optics
  • Active and advanced optical sensors
  • Programmable diffractive optics
  • Tuneable liquid crystal devices
  • Optically based control system
  • Wavefront controllers

Applications for Smart Optical systems occur in astronomy, space science, medical physics and industrial instrumentation, as well as in defence and optical communications. A necessary prerequisite for the adoption of Smart Optics in a given application is that they are affordable.

The Partnership will be concerned with the technology creation lifecycle, from underpinning research through to exploitation. Projects will be co-ordinated and integrated within the overall lifecycle, building upon one-another (e.g. a Teaching Company Scheme (TCS) might follow on from a research project). A strength of the Faraday Partnership is that it adds cohesion to the technology creation process, and identifies synergies between the requirements of PPARC and EPSRC.

The Smart Optics bid was one of seven successful bids from a shortlist of 16 and is the first partnership to be supported by PPARC.

"This is a great opportunity for MSSL and the space research community in general to both enhance is capabilities and support UK industry in a exciting area of instrumentation" said Alan Smith, Co-Director of the Partnership and Associate Director of Programmes at MSSL.

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