Aston University photonics research to help address national infrastructure challenges

Aston University photonics research to help address national infrastructure challenges
UKCRIC Communications, Marketing and Events Manager (UCL)
28 June 2024

The UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) is pleased to welcome Aston University as its newest member of the network. The partnership will primarily collaborate with The Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AIPT) which adds new research expertise and cutting-edge laser, optical sensing, and optical machine learning technologies to UKCRIC’s integrated network of infrastructure facilities.

AIPT is one of the largest photonics research centres in the UK, approaching 100 staff and with current grant funding amounting to £30m, supporting around 60 projects. AIPT’s success has been built on significant achievements in high-speed optical transmission, digital signal processing (including low complexity machine learning techniques), wide-band amplification, nonlinear photonics, fibre grating technology, fibre lasers, bio- and medical photonics, and in various fibre optic sensing technologies and applications. Photonic technologies have the potential to transform current practices in the construction sector and suggest new ways to better interconnect and monitor the built environment.

AIPT facility highlights:

AIPT’s experimental work is carried out in over 30 laboratories covering 1500 square metres. Facilities for research on lasers, sensing and fibre optics include:

  • Labs for creating tailored optical sensors for Civil SHM applications (3 UV lasers for FBG inscription in silica and polymer fibres; 2 fs laser systems for waveguide, FBG inscription and micromachining; Surface Nanoscale Axial Photonics facility for making ultrasensitive resonant sensors; clean room; gas handling facility)
  • Fibre grating fabrication system, fast fibre grating interrogator (micron-optics), optical spectrum analysers and a wide range of light sources (including lasers and broadband light sources)
  • 3d-printing laboratory for sensor packaging and creation of miniature opto-mechanical devices, including two-photon polymerisation systems for additive manufacturing with resolution ~100nm; additive manufacturing facility for prototype and housing fabrication (plastic, metal, ceramics, composites)
  • Sensing laboratories for characterising strain, temperature, vibration and (bio)chemical sensors
  • Imaging laboratory for materials characterisation, chemical analysis, environmental sensing, and damage assessment (microscopes, hyperspectral imaging system, environmental SEM, SNOM)

Professor Sergei Turitsyn, Director of AIPT said, “AIPT's membership with UKCRIC perfectly aligns with Aston University's strategic goals and positions us at the forefront of global research and development in photonics technologies, enhanced by digital and AI/machine learning data processing. We are looking forward to the collaboration and the exciting opportunities for new industrial and social impact it will bring.”

AIPT will also be collaborating with Dr Haris Alexakis, lecturer in Civil Engineering at Aston University. He said, “Optical technologies have the potential to reduce uncertainties in the construction and maintenance of civil infrastructure, enabling more precise engineering driven by data.

“It is already clear that there is huge synergy between the sensing and communications capabilities provided by photonics and the requirements of the ever more complex built environment. We look forward to innovating in this area through collaboration facilitated by UKCRIC”.

Professor William Powrie, UKCRIC Convenor, University of Southampton added, “We are thrilled to welcome Aston University to UKCRIC. Resilient, sustainable infrastructure requires a transdisciplinary approach and this collaborative ethos, linking different research disciplines to solve national infrastructure challenges, is at the core of UKCRIC’s mission. Photonics is an exciting enabling technology that will underpin many innovations across infrastructure challenges and we very much look forward to collaborating with our new colleagues in AIPT.”


Notes to Editors

For further insight into how photonics research is applied to advancing the infrastructure sector download the latest UKCRIC Connected thought leadership publication: Advanced optical technologies for a sustainable built environment.


UKCRIC is a collaborative national network of leading UK universities with research and development facilities including engineering laboratories; urban observatories; and data analytics, simulation and visualisation capabilities. Through its work with industry, academia, government and end users, UKCRIC is de-risking investments, providing world-leading research facilities and knowledge to trial design options, and is helping to prioritise and provide evidence, analysis and innovation for future infrastructure and urban investments.

About Aston University

For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.

Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.

Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming The Guardian University of the Year in 2020.

Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.

Media enquiries

For enquiries to UKCRIC please contact Tim Yates, Marketing, Communications and Events Manager, email:

For enquiries to Aston University please contact, Nicola Jones, Press and Communications Manager, email: