Quantum Photonics

MSc(Res) Quantum Photonics and Nanomaterials

Quantum information and nanotechnology promise to revolutionise the modern world: from quantum computers that can solve complex problems much faster than classical computers, to two-dimensional materials that can pack circuitry into the smallest electrical and optical devices. Physicists are paving the way for new technology that is faster, more powerful, more functional and more secure.

This one-year masters course is designed to teach you the concepts behind the next generation of technology, and the lab skills that will help to make it a reality. It is taught by researchers who are working on the theoretical and experimental basis of quantum information technologies, using the quantum nature of light to enable quantum information processing. The course's particular focus is on developing novel semiconductor photonic nanostructures and 2D materials, such as graphene derived from bulk van der Waals materials, that could dramatically alter the optical and electronics industries.

You'll study electromagnetism, optics, solid state physics and semiconductors at an advanced level, so that you understand the physical principles behind the latest technology. It's a research-based degree, so you will also spend around half your time on your own research project, working alongside experts here in Sheffield. Options include quantum mechanics and magnetic resonance, or modules on enterprise and statistics, where you can develop skills to help you stand out in the graduate job market.

The course is a great preparation for a PhD and for careers in industry that physics graduates excel in, such as computing, data science and technology.

2D materials and quantum computing on video

Our Low Dimensional Structures and Devices team are at the forefront of III-V semiconductor development and quantum information processing, helping break new ground in quantum computing and 2D materials. They explain more in their film series.

Quantum Animations


To apply for this course, complete the University of Sheffield's postgraduate online application form.

Online application form

You can find more information about the application process on the University's postgraduate webpages.

How to apply: applying essentials

Deadlines for 2020 entry

Students requiring visas: Friday 7 August
Students not requiring visas: Friday 14 August


Course Director: Professor Dmitry Krizhanovskii

For general queries contact:

Email: postgradphysics-enquiry@sheffield.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)114 22 23789

You can also visit us throughout the year:
Postgraduate open days, visit afternoons and online chats

About the course

This one-year course covers aspects of quantum physics that are paving the way for quantum technologies. You will study the fundamental properties of light and matter, and how they interact with each other. This includes learning how semiconductors are used in electronic and optoelectronic devices, ranging from nanophotonic circuits, and micro- and nano-sources of quantum light, to photovoltaic solar cells.

By formulating complex equations that describe the theory, and seeing how it's put into practice with experiments in the lab, you'll develop expertise that can be applied to some of the biggest challenges in science and technology, from designing new semiconductor nanostructures and 2D materials to building an optical quantum computer. You'll learn how your specialist knowledge can be applied in the computing, electronics and telecommunications industries.

There are also optional modules to choose from, including quantum mechanics, magnetic resonance, soft condensed matter, biological physics and statistical physics. 

The biggest part of your degree is your research project. You will choose your own topic, and work closely with a member of academic staff from Department of Physics and Astronomy, who is an expert in the area you want to explore. Possible topics include:

  • Theory of quantum optical information processing
  • Spin phenomena in semiconductor nanostructures
  • Integrated photonic structures for QIP
  • Novel atomically thin 2D materials for optoelectronic applications
  • Nonlinear and hybrid-light matter phases in photonic geometries
  • Perovskites and organic semiconductor for photovoltaics
  • Organic sensor devices
  • Physics of polymer crystallisation

You will take part in a research training programme that teaches you how to interpret and evaluate research papers, and how to communicate your own findings. There is also optional enterprise training, where you can use your physics expertise to develop an idea for a new business and pitch it to a panel of experts

One of our quantum technology researchers, Dr Emiliano Cancellieri, explains polaritons and how they can be used to replace current technology.

After your degree

The advanced topics covered and the extensive research training make this degree programme great preparation for a PhD:

The specialist knowledge you'll gain can also be applied in the computing, electronics and telecommunications industries.

Physics graduates also develop numerical, problem solving and data analysis skills that are useful in many careers, such as programming, software engineering or data science or technology research and development. Below are some examples of the kinds of roles and organisations our students end up in.

Example roles:

  • Data Scientist
  • Graduate Software Engineer
  • Network Engineer
  • Research Engineer
  • Senior Information Analyst
  • Senior Research Analyst

Example employers:

  • BAE Systems
  • Bank of England
  • Channel 4
  • Ministry of Defence
  • National Space Agency
  • Sony

The University's Careers Service runs workshops on CV and application writing, job hunting and preparing for interviews. They offer events where you can meet employers, and opportunities to get work experience while you study. The Careers Service will even continue to support you for three years after you graduate.

Entry requirements

For this course, we usually ask for a first class undergraduate degree in physics or a related subject.

We can also accept qualifications from other countries. You can find out which qualifications we accept from your country on the University's webpages for international students.

Prospective international students: Your country

International pathway programmes

If you are an international student who does not meet our entry requirements, the University of Sheffield International College offers a Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering programme. This programme is designed to develop your academic level in your chosen subject, introduce you to the study skills that will be vital to success and help with language if you need it.

Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at the University of Sheffield.

Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering

English Language Requirements

If you have not already studied in a country where English is the majority language, it is likely that you will need to have an English language qualification. We usually ask for:

  • International English Language Testing Service (IELTS): Overall grade of 6.5 with 6 in each component

You can find out whether you need to have an english language qualification, and which other English language qualifications we accept, on the University's webpages for international students.

English language requirements

The English Language Teaching Centre offers English language courses for students who are preparing to study at the University of Sheffield.

English Language Teaching Centre

Funding and scholarships

Funding is available, depending on your fee status, where you live and the course you plan to study. You could also qualify for a repayable postgraduate masters loan to help fund your studies.

Funding your postgraduate course

UK/EU scholarships

100+ scholarships image

We're offering 100+ scholarships worth £10,000 each for home students starting a taught postgraduate course in 2019 that can be used towards fees or living expenses.

Find out more

International scholarships

International scholarships image

We're offering 100 International Postgraduate Taught Merit Scholarships, each worth 25% of the original tuition fee for a postgraduate taught programme starting in September 2019.

Find out more

Alumni rewards

Alumni rewards

If you’ve previously graduated from the University and intend to pursue further studies with us then you may be eligible to receive a 10% discount on your tuition fees.

Find out more

Up-to-date fees can be found on the University of Sheffield's webpages for postgraduate students:

Tuition fees


Beyond graphene: 2D materials and electronics


Professors Alexander Tartakovskii and Dmitry Krizhanovskii are working with graphene pioneers in Manchester on new 2D materials.

Learn more


Faster photons could enable total data security

Binary code

How generating rapid single-photon light pulses can help stop data from being intercepted, published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Full story


Researchers edge closer to quantum computer

Quantum computer chip

Scientists have used quantum dots to boost interactions between photons on a single semiconductor chip, published in Optica.

Full story

Current modules

The modules listed below are examples from the current academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course.

Core modules:

Advanced Electrodynamics (10 credits)

Module leader: Professor Pieter Kok

In this module, our starting point is Maxwell's equations, after a brief recap of vector calculus. We describe the electric and magnetic fields in terms of potentials, and present two general classes of solving Maxwell's equations. We treat fields in macroscopic media, waveguides and cavities, and we end with the relativistic formulation of electrodynamics.

Optical Properties of Solids (10 credits)

Module leader: Professor Mark Fox

This module covers the optical physics of solid state materials. It begins with the classical description of optical propagation. It then covers the treatment of absorption and luminescence by quantum theory, and the modifications caused by excitonic effects. The phenomena are illustrated by discussing the optical properties of insulators, semiconductors, and metals. The infrared properties of ionic systems are then discussed, and the course concludes with a brief introduction to nonlinear crystals.

Semiconductor Physics and Technology (10 credits)

Module leader: Prof Luke Wilson

This module builds on the core solid state physics modules to provide an introduction to semiconductor electronic and optoelectronic devices and modern developments in crystal growth to produce low dimensional semiconductor structures (quantum wells, wires and dots). Band structure engineering, the main physical properties and a number of applications of low dimensional semiconductor structures are covered.

Solid State Physics (10 credits)

Module leader: Professor Dmitry Krizhanovskii

This module covers the classification of solids into the three types - metals, semiconductors and insulators, the free electron model, the origin of electronic band structure, the fundamental properties of conductors and semiconductors, carrier statistics, experimental techniques used to study carriers in a solid, the classification and physics of the principal types of magnetism.

Physics Research Skills (30 credits)

Module leader: Dr Matt Mears

This module is designed to allow students to explicitly reflect on various aspects of the research process and its communication. Students will be required to keep a diary of their project and reflect on their progress; write a literature review of the project area reflecting on how and why they chose their sources; reflect on the process of learning a new skill for their project; communicate what their research is about and why it is important to a general audience; consider how to teach what they are researching at undergraduate level.

Research Project in Physics (90 credits)

Module leader: TBC

This module will give students the opportunity to develop skills relevant to a career in physics research. It will consist of a laboratory or analytical based research project in one of the Department’s research groups. Each student will work under the supervision of a member of academic staff and will formulate the hypotheses and questions to be addressed and plan and carry out experiments or simulations to test these hypotheses. The outcome of the project will be summarised in a dissertation and the student will keep a notebook of the research, deliver an oral presentation of their work, and prepare a poster of their findings.

Optional modules – students take two:

Advanced Quantum Mechanics (10 credits)

Module leader: Professor Pieter Kok

In this course, we will build quantum mechanics from the ground up, starting with linear vector spaces and Hilbert space. We introduce the postulates of quantum mechanics and explore important topics in modern quantum mechanics such as mixed states, decoherence, entanglement, and quantum teleportation. We also give a thorough treatment of spin and orbital angular momentum. In the second part, we look at many body problems in quantum mechanics. We explore the physics of identical particles, and apply this theory to many-electron atoms, spin waves in solids, and atoms in an optical cavity. Finally, we will briefly introduce the basic principles behind quantum field theory.

Biological Physics (10 credits)

Module leader: Dr Rhoda Hawkins

This module will introduce students to biological physics, that is, the application of principles and tools from physics to biological systems. Biological materials are often soft condensed matter with properties between those of simple liquids and solids. In addition biological matter is usually out of equilibrium due to internal biochemical sources of energy. Students will begin to explore the world of biological cells and biopolymer macromolecules, such as DNA. They will see how physics can help understand biological systems through mathematical models and experimental imaging techniques and how this can lead to new physics and applications in biology.

Further Quantum Mechanics (10 credits)

Module leader: Professor David Whittaker

This module builds on quantum mechanics, developing the Heisenberg matrix formulation of the theory from the Schrodinger wave picture. Methods are developed for solving time dependent problems, treating problems involving magnetic fields and spin, and introducing many particle wave functions for fermions and bosons.

Magnetic Resonance: Principles and Applications (10 credits)

Module leader: Professor Alexander Tartakovskii

The module will provide an overview of the basics of magnetic resonance, and then consider its applications in systems ranging from macroscopic living organisms, as in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) widely used in hospitals, to nanoscale systems where control of single or a few spins is now possible and can also be used for nano-imaging. Special attention will be paid to recent advances in solid state nanoNMR and the control of single electron spins in solid state nano systems using spin resonance techniques.

Physics in an Enterprise Culture (10 credits)

Module leader: Professor David Lidzey

This is a seminar and workshop based course with a high level of student centred learning. The unit will introduce students to the need for innovation and creativity in thinking, together with practical ways to develop, present, and critique, ideas. The course is based around the development of new innovative business or sustainable ventures. Students are tasked with developing ideas for a new business venture that they will modify and improve throughout the course as a result of critical feedback from a number of sources. As part of the course, students will have to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts, and also help ‘road-map’ the development of a new business venture. This course is designed to encourage entrepreneurship, creativity and critical thinking, and will help students in understanding the mechanics of starting a business venture.

Statistical Physics (10 credits)

Module leader: Dr Buddhapriya Chakrabarti

Statistical physics is the derivation of the thermal properties of matter using the underlying microscopic Hamiltonians. The aims of this course are to introduce the techniques of statistical mechanics, and to use them to describe a wide variety of phenomena from physics, chemistry and astronomy.

The Physics of Soft Condensed Matter (10 credits)

Module leader: 

Soft condensed matter is a generic name for a class of materials that play a crucial role in technology as well as providing fascinating and timely scientific problems. These complex materials are typified by polymers, gels and colloidal dispersions, whose properties often seem intermediate between ordinary liquids and solids. Familiar examples from everyday life include plastics, soaps and detergents, foodstuffs, and indeed the material from which living organisms are constructed. Only relatively recently has it been realised that despite the complexity of these materials elegant and simple physical principles often underlie their behaviour; this course provides an introduction to these principles.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in a student’s home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.

Our optics lab for studying 2D materials

We built our new lab for studies of optical properties of structures based on 2D materials, such as MoS2, MoSe2, WSe2, WS2, NbSe2, gallium and indium chalcogenides. We're one of the leaders in research of complex heterostructures based on 2D materials, which is based on our expertise in photonics and magneto-optics of nanostructured semiconductors.