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Oxford Researchers Secure Top Award at International Optics Conference

Researchers from the Department of Engineering Science have won the Best Paper Award at the 2024 SPIE Photonics West conference held in San Francisco, USA.

The Oxford team, L-R: Dr. Chao He, Yifei Ma, Zimo Zhao (cr: Yuxi Cai)

The Oxford team, L-R: Dr. Chao He, Yifei Ma, Zimo Zhao (cr: Yuxi Cai)

The Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE), recognised as a key organisation driving advancements in light-based technologies globally, hosts the Photonics West conference annually. This event serves as a convergence point for over 24,000 researchers, engineers, and industry professionals from across 70 nations. With a lineup boasting more than 5,000 technical presentations on cutting-edge research in fields spanning from biomedical optics to quantum technologies.

DPhil student Yifei Ma received the Best Paper Award for his work titled “Polarization Adaptive Optics for Enhanced Stokes Vector Measurement” within the Polarized Light and Optical Angular Momentum for Biomedical Diagnostics section. This paper introduces an innovative methodology for evaluating the efficacy of polarization adaptive optics (P-AO) in correcting aberrations within optical systems, utilizing optical Skyrmions[1]. This breakthrough not only propels the frontier of adaptive optics but also unveils a compelling application of Skyrmionic beams.

‘In the future, we will push forward to translate this technique into commercialization.’

The research work was undertaken in The Vectorial Optics and Photonics Group (VOP), led by Dr. Chao He. The team, comprising twelve members, focuses on pioneering optical techniques for vectorial beam manipulation. Their recent breakthrough in Vectorial Adaptive Optics, relating to the prize-winning paper, was highlighted as the cover paper of eLight (Springer Nature) and was further highlighted by “Light: Science & Applications” and “MIT Technology Review”. The implications of this work extend across various domains, from galaxy detection to laser-based and lithographic nanofabrication, as well as biomedical and clinical characterization and complex beam manipulation for photonics chips. 

Upon receiving this award, Yifei Ma said:“ I am very honoured to win this award and I would like to thank my supervisors Dr. Chao He and Prof. Martin Booth for their solid support and extremely instructive guidance, and thank my friends and collaborators Zimo Zhao, An Aloysius Wang and other co-authors for all their contributions, and also thank group members from Vectorial Optics and Photonics (VOP) group, Dynamic Optics and Photonics (DOP) group, and Soft Matter Photonics (SMP) group for helpful discussions. I also thank the conference committee and chairs.”

Dr. Chao He, Group leader of the VOP said: “I am very pleased that our work can be acknowledged by these top experts at such a leading conference. In the future, we will push forward to translate this technique into commercialization – just like the pathological imaging system which we already got commercial funds and interests in the healthcare sector.”


[1] Optical Skyrmions are stable, vortex-like structures found in light waves, resembling their counterparts in other physical systems. They offer unique topological properties and potential applications in optics, including robustness and applications in optical communications and information processing.

Yifei Ma presenting at the Photonics West Conference

Yifei Ma presenting at the Photonics West conference

Authors attending the conference Zimo Zhao and Yifei Ma

Authors attended the conference, L-R: Zimo Zhao, Yifei Ma

Polarisation/vectorial adaptive optics set up

Polarisation/vectorial adaptive optics setup

VOP Group Dinner

VOP group dinner