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David Richards is a professor of physics and Vice Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Natural & Mathematical Sciences in King’s College London.

He holds MA and PhD degrees in physics from the University of Cambridge and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society. Before moving to King’s College London in 2000, he worked as a research fellow in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, where he held fellowships from St. John’s College Cambridge and Lloyds’s of London Tercentenary Foundation, before a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. He was the Head of The Physics Department at King’s from 2007-2015. From 2013-15 he was Chair of the UK Standing Conference of Physics Professors (now known as the Heads of Physics Forum).


His past research brings extensive experience in optical spectroscopy and imaging, particularly fluorescence and Raman scattering, and has been concerned with two main themes:

(1)    Until 2010, the study of the electronic and optical properties of semiconductor nanostructures, in particular providing insight through Raman spectroscopy to the properties of plasmons and spin excitations in low-dimensional electron gases.

(2)    Since 1995, Nano- and Bio-photonics.

Research in nanophotonics has included the development, theory and application of scanning near-field optical microscopy, including important contributions to the development of 'tip-enhanced' Raman and fluorescence microscopy. This led to a focus on SERS and the manipulation of fluorescence using plasmonic nanostructures.

He founded the King’s College Centre for Biophotonics, bringing together a strong network of researchers in optical cell and tissue imaging across the university. Research in this area has included the application of nanoplasmonic materials n fluorescence imaging for novel cellular screening assays and the development of ultra-broadband coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) imaging.

He was also a co-founder of start-up Genapta Ltd, which developed a microfluidic fluorescence assay system for drug discovery; Genapta was successfully sold in a trade-sale in 2007/8.

Present Research

Our research is concerned with the development of new optical imaging techniques, with a particular focus on biological application, and on understanding and manipulating photophysical phenomena at the nanoscale. Our research programme falls into two main strands, outlined below. We enjoy strong collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory .

1. Coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) imaging

Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (CARS) is a third order non-linear optical process where three input fields coherently generate a fourth.  The amplitude and phase of the generated field depends on molecular vibrational resonances, so the technique can give information on what chemical species are present in a given sample.  In recent years this has found application in biological microscopy, allowing images to be taken using the endogenous (i.e. label-free) vibrational contrast. 

We have recently developed a new implementation of CARS which delivers in a passive all- optical manner the same powerful chemical signature provided by conventional Raman spectroscopy, but orders of magnitude faster, making it possible to explore a wide range of systems (from biological cells to reacting gas flows) in much greater spatial and temporal detail. Signals are free of the non-resonant background signal which has traditionally plagued CARS, while still providing the signal amplification and inherent optical sectioning of multiphoton coherent Raman techniques. We are now developing further this new technique of Spectral Interferometric Polarized Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering (SIP-CARS), and applying it to biological cell imaging and tissue diagnostics.

2. Plasmonics

We are members of the Reactive Plasmonics (RPLAS) EPSRC Programme. Please see Professor Anatoly Zayats and the RPLAS web-site