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    Quantum Photonics and Nanomaterials

    School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Science

    Understand the quantum information systems that promise to revolutionise the modern world. You'll learn the concepts behind the next generation of technology, and the lab skills that will help to make it a reality.
    A Quantum Photonics student using lasers

    Course description

    This course teaches you about 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 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.

    The biggest part of your degree is your research project. 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


    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Core modules:

    Solid State Physics

    Covering the electronic properties of solids, this module details the classification of solids into conductors, semiconductors and insulators, the free electron model, the origin of electronic band structure, the fundamental electronic properties of conductors and semiconductors, carrier statistics, experimental techniques used to study carriers in a solid, and the classification and physics of the principal types of magnetism. A review of the application of these fundamental concepts to state of the art research in the field completes the module.

    15 credits
    Optical Properties of Solids

    The course covers the optical physics of solid-state materials. The optical properties of insulators, semiconductors, and metals from near-infrared to ultraviolet frequencies are considered, covering both established technologies and the latest developments in photonics. The infrared properties of materials are then discussed, and the course concludes with an introduction to nonlinear crystals. The module will be taught via lectures and problem classes. 

    The course first develops the classical model of absorption and refraction based on Lorentz oscillators, and then discusses the use of quantum theory to understand the absorption and emission spectra. The optical properties in state-of-the-art materials are discussed in the context of photonics research and applications. The topics covered include:

    Dispersion in optical materials, including optical fibres,

    Interband absorption, 



    Low-dimensional materials, 

    Free carrier effects, 

    Phonon effects, 

    Nonlinear crystals.

    15 credits
    Advanced Electrodynamics

    This module gives a detailed mathematical foundation for modern electrodynamics, starting from Maxwell's equations, charge conservation and the wave equation, to gauge invariance, waveguides, cavities and antennas, and an introduction to quantum electrodynamics. After a brief recap of vector calculus, we explore the role of the scalar and vector potential, the multi-pole expansion of the field, the Poisson and Laplace equations, energy and momentum conservation of the fields, and waveguides and cavities. After a relativistic treatment of the fields we consider the quantisation of the electromagnetic field modes, the Hamiltonian for the dipole coupling between a field and a radiation emitter, and finally we explore the Aharonov-Bohm effect.

    15 credits
    Quantum Optics and Quantum Computing

    Quantum computing is introduced through the fundamental concepts of quantum gates and circuits before moving to cover more advanced topics such as quantum programming, quantum algorithms and quantum error correction. These concepts are then applied by studying how programming quantum circuits can be done using cloud computers (e.g. using openQASM format) and the implementation of quantum algorithms (including examples) and quantum error correction using stabiliser formalism and graph states and quantum error correction codes.

    The second part of the module covers quantum optics and quantum optical applications at the forefront of current research in the field. This includes topics such as weak and strong coupling of dipole sources in a cavity, single photon sources, protocols of quantum optical communications and linear optics computation. The module then progresses to quantum optical applications. Cavity electrodynamics is studied in the regimes of strong and weak coupling of matter excitations to the electromagnetic field in optical microstructures. This will lead to the physics of highly efficient single photon devices necessary for linear optics quantum computation. The effects of entanglement and quantum teleportation will be also considered.

    15 credits
    Research Project in Physics

    This is a project based module that gives students an opportunity to apply their scientific knowledge to a research problem. Students will develop skills in time management, project planning, scientific record keeping, information retrieval and analysis of scientific information sources.

    Students will choose a project of relevance to their programme of study and will work closely with an academic supervisor who is an expert in the field. The project will involve analysing the literature relevant to the problem and then developing skills relevant to tackling the problem. Projects maybe experimental, theoretical, analytical or computational in nature but will involve a substantial component of new work. The research will culminate with a written dissertation.

    Teaching will be through weekly supervisions with academic staff and interactions with research group members. In the supervisions students will develop research plans, practise applying the scientific method by developing and testing hypotheses, discuss findings from both the literature and from laboratory or simulation based experiments, present results and discuss potential conclusions. Plans will be adapted based on these discussions. Specific experimental and/or simulation based skills will be learnt through a combination of supervised activities and self teaching - building on basic skills learnt in earlier modules in the programme.

    Weekly seminars and workshops will teach students good practice in terms of searching the literature, research ethics and keeping research records.

    90 credits

    Optional modules:

    A student will take 30 credits (two modules) from this group

    Advanced Quantum Mechanics

    Quantum mechanics at an intermediate to advanced level, including the mathematical vector space formalism, approximate methods, angular momentum, and some contemporary topics such as entanglement, density matrices and open quantum systems. We will study topics in quantum mechanics at an intermediate to advanced level, bridging the gap between the physics core and graduate level material.   The syllabus includes a formal mathematical description in the language of vector spaces; the description of the quantum state in Schrodinger and Heisenberg pictures, and using density operators to represent mixed states; approximate methods: perturbation theory,  variational method and time-dependent perturbation theory;  the theory of angular momentum and spin; the treatment of identical particles; entanglement; open quantum systems and decoherence. The problem solving will provide a lot of practice at using vector and matrix methods and operator algebra techniques. The teaching will take the form of traditional lectures plus weekly problem classes where you will be provided with support and feedback on your attempts.

    15 credits
    Advanced Soft Matter and Biological Physics

    Fascinating behaviour of soft matter and biological systems often occurs at thermal energy scales and can be described by statistical mechanical models. In addition, living biological matter is driven out of equilibrium due to internal biochemical sources of energy. Mathematical models and modern advanced experimental techniques are revealing the physical principles underpinning the biological world and the technological possibilities of complex soft materials.Much recent progress in soft matter and biology has been made thanks to the advent of advanced experimental  techniques which we will show are based on elegant physical principles. We will also study the physical principles underpinning the behaviour of complex soft matter and biological materials. We will describe phase transitions in multiple soft matter systems by calculating free energies. We will use random walk models to describe the shape of polymer molecules and the Brownian motion of colloids. We will also study the dynamics of polymers and the kinetics of polymerisation. We will then consider how polymerisation of protein filaments and action of molecular motors can generate forces in biological cells. This will involve us introducing concepts of systems that are in equilibrium versus out of equilibrium. Using a mathematical  framework we can describe behaviour at different length scales for example from the cytoskeleton to tissues, bacteria colonies and flocking. We will also investigate how the energy required for life is captured in photosynthesis.

    15 credits
    Physics in an Enterprise Culture

    This is a seminar and workshop based course where students will create a proposal for a new business. Seminars will cover topics such as innovation, intellectual property, costing and business planning. Workshops will support students to develop ideas and communicate them effectively. Both a business proposal and a pitch to investors are assessed. This modules give students an opportunity to develop a business proposal, using their physics knowledge as a starting point. The module starts with a series of seminars and workshops designed to help students come up with possible new ideas for products or services that they are interested in developing further. Further seminars formalise how business ideas are tested to ensure that basic assumptions about customers and markets are sensible and also guidance is given in terms of how to estimate the costs and revenues associated with the idea. Finally seminars to support writing the idea into a proposal are given. Evaluation of ideas using peer feedback is a key part of the module and midway through, a review panel is organised to give an opportunity for students to formally evaluate other ideas to help them develop their own.

    15 credits
    Further Statistical Physics

    Statistical mechanics at an intermediate to advanced level, including the concepts of micro and macro states, different ensembles, and mathematical formulation of calculating average values physical quantities that can be measured in experiments. Contemporary topics such as Quantum Statistical Mechanics, Phase transitions and critical phenomena and Mean field theory will be covered.Statistical physics is a probabilistic description of systems with many degrees of freedom and provides the microscopic basis of thermodynamics. The  course focuses on understanding the ergodic hypothesis, classification of micro and macro states and calculation of thermodynamic quantities e.g., pressure, volume, free energy etc. of a system in the micro-canonical, canonical and grand canonical ensemble, quantum statistical mechanics, including Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics and Landau theory of phase transitions. Advanced topics such as mean field theory and critical phenomena will also be covered.

    15 credits
    Semiconductor Physics and Technology

    This module builds on the core solid state physics modules to provide an introduction to semiconductor electronic and opto-electronic devices and modern developments in crystal growth to produce low dimensional semiconductor structures (quantum wells, wires, dots and atomically thin two-dimensional materials). Band structure engineering, the main physical properties and a number of applications of low dimensional semiconductor structures are covered. The modules concludes with some examples of recent advances in the field, such as new epitaxial techniques and atomically thin two-dimensional materials.

    15 credits

    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.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    1 year full-time


    You'll be taught through a series of lectures, seminars, tutorials and your research project.

    You’ll typically spend around 25 hours per week working on an individual research project alongside PhD students and experienced postdoctoral researchers. Your practical training will cover optical experiments and fabrication of devices in our state-of-the-art laboratories, numerical methods and more. You’ll report and analyse your results, suggest further investigations you can do, and at the end of the project present your work to colleagues.


    You'll be assessed by examinations, coursework, essays and other written work, presentations and a dissertation and viva.

    Your career

    The advanced topics you'll cover and the extensive research training make this course great preparation for a PhD. Sheffield physics graduates have secured postgraduate research positions at many of the world's top 100 universities.

    Alternatively, the specialist expertise you’ll gain can be applied in the computing, electronics and telecommunications industries. Global brands such as Amazon, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Hitachi and Toshiba all have teams working on quantum technology – from manufacturing new devices with advanced materials, to improving computer processing and data security systems.

    You can also develop numerical, problem solving and data analysis skills that are useful in many other fields, from computer programming to finance. Employers that have hired Sheffield physics graduates include BT, EDF Energy, HSBC, IBM, Manchester United FC, Nissan, the NHS and the Civil Service.


    Our laboratories include a dedicated facility for studying the 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.


    School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

    The School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences is leading the way with groundbreaking research and innovative teaching. We provide our students with the skills and knowledge to support them in a wide range of careers.

    Physics courses at the University of Sheffield are focused on some of the biggest questions in science, such as how to build a quantum computer, how to detect dark matter and how to combat antimicrobial resistance.

    We have been ranked 1st in the UK in terms of the quality of our physics research. In the Research Excellence Framework 2021, 100 per cent of research and impact from physics and astronomy was rated in the highest two categories as world-leading or internationally excellent.

    Our researchers run experiments on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and help to map the Universe using the Hubble Space Telescope.

    Working with National Grid, they are also helping to maximise the potential of solar energy and are playing a leading part in the quantum technology revolution by establishing a multi-million pound Quantum Centre here in Sheffield.

    Physics and astronomy staff have received honours from the Royal Society and the Institute of Physics. They are participants in a large number of international collaborations including the ATLAS Experiment, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the HiPERCAM high-speed astronomical imaging project, the LUX-ZEPLIN dark matter experiment and the Hyper-Kamiokande neutrino observatory.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in physics.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


    You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.