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Glass smithing on the micro and nano scales


Dating as far back as 3500 years when the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians began glazing pottery, glass processing and “smithing” has evolved into many forms culminating with the drawing of optical fibres hundreds of kilometres long. Today, we try and process glass on smaller and smaller scales with the equivalent of on-line glass blowing enabling submicron and nano- features stretching the entire length of these micron wide optical fibres. Despite remarkable advances in composition and scalability, the thermal processing itself remains crude and inflexible, not altogether different all those years ago. In an alternative pathway, we have shown by using laser processing to seed differences between glass regions, it is possible to alter the relaxation of glass during annealing in different areas with sub-micron resolution. This gives rise to processes such as “regeneration” where a seed structure that appears to anneal away is reborn and is much more stable than the initial seed structure. For example, within optical fibres, we have used both UV laser and near IR femtosecond lasers to increase the thermal stability of fibre gratings to unprecedented levels. This offers a potentially powerful solution to the grand challenge of thermally annealing and processing glass down to sub-micron dimensions. But more remains to be done to fully understand.


Honorary Professor John Canning.

Research location

School of Chemistry

Program type



This project will resolve to explore and understand the limits of laser seeding and thermal processing, the role of dopants in glass (including Bi, Al, P and so on) and what happens to these at all stages. The relaxation of the glass and the way different regions interact, the way dopant diffusion mitigates or impacts on this process and the role of stresses in optimising regeneration. The project will look at ways of expanding this technology beyond one dimension within optical fibres as well as explore potential new applications to demonstrate the capability as well as test the limits. For some information in this area see:

Additional information

Working on this project, you will use lasers of various sorts, learn about optical fibres and characterise them including dopants, photonics and photonic components such as Bragg gratings and their spectral characterisation, glass and photosensitivity, thermal annealing, and use various optical test equipment and more.

Australian and New Zealand citizens should apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award, International Students should apply for scholarship funding through the International Office and Science Faculty schemes.

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision; Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1552

Other opportunities with Honorary Professor John Canning