Department of Physics

The Physics of Measurement and Materials


Applied physics includes identifying and pursuing opportunities for new technologies, techniques and materials. University of Auckland physicists have a strong history of technological innovation and have contributed to the department’s record of spring-boarding successful spinout companies.

We welcome new collaborators in key areas. For instance, we now have Principal Investigators in three Centres of Research Excellence: the The Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonics and Quantum Technologies; The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology; and Te Pūnaha Matatini (complex systems and networks). We’re also associated with a fourth, Med Tech (medical technologies). We especially target challenges with societal impact, for instance, in the energy or water management sectors.

We undertake theoretical research and pursue practical applications in biomedicine, primary industries and geophysics. Neil Broderick, John Harvey, Rainer Leonhardt, Kasper van Wijk, Cather Simpson, and Frédérique Vanholsbeeck develop optical sensing and imaging systems. Their expertise spans optical coherence tomography (especially in medical imaging), terahertz spectroscopy, novel mass spectroscopy, optical metrology, fluorescence, photo-acoustics and new sensing optical sources such as fibre lasers. Stuart Bradley employs acoustic remote sensing to study physical processes within spaces such as the lower atmosphere, noise-generating surfaces (especially wind turbines), turbulent boundary layers, solid structures, trees, and pasture.

Shaun Hendy and Geoff Willmott pursue microfluidics, nanofluidics and biophysics research. Some of this is supported by laser manufacturing at the Photon Factory (which is led by Cather Simpson) and by access to microfabrication facilities in the Department of Chemistry. 

Research stories

  • High Definition: Biophotonics and Biomedical Imaging
    21 April 2016
    Dr Frédérique Vanholsbeeck is developing new techniques in optical coherence tomography (OCT). These use ‘echoes of light’ to create 3-D images of structures that lie up to 2mm inside human tissue. Think ultrasound but with light.
  • Timber! Making Sounds Matter in the Forest
    21 April 2016
    Professor Stuart Bradley and Dr Mathew Legg are developing novel acoustic techniques for the non-destructive testing of plantation trees. They aim to appraise the quality of the wood as early in a tree’s life as possible.