Personal profile


Daniel Esser was born in Johannesburg, South Africa.  He obtained his Doctorate of Engineering in Photonics (2010) from Heriot-Watt University while working full-time at the CSIR National Laser Centre, South Africa. He joined Heriot-Watt in 2013 as Professor and held the Royal Academy of Engineering & Leonardo Research Chair in Laser Device Physics & Engineering. He is married to Professor Irene‑marie Esser and they have two sons.

Research interests

Prof Esser's research background include key demonstrations of Nd-doped systems for 1 µm operation (Nd:YLF and Nd:YVO4), Tm-doped systems at 1.9 µm (Tm:YLF, Tm:GdVO4) and Ho-doped lasers and amplifiers for high energy 2 µm operation (Ho:YLF, Ho:LuLF). These lasers could be applied to defence, remote sensing and industrial processes. In addition to his publication outputs, he was also co-author and principle investigator for a number of technology demonstrators developed during industry-focussed research projects.

Prof Esser is researching new materials, architectures and manufacturing methods of direct diode laser modules, diode-pumped solid-state lasers, as well as laser-based digital manufacturing. His group addresses the key challenges of power- and energy scaling of solid-state laser systems, focussing on high-brightness laser diodes, micro-optic beam shaping, thin-slab architectures and compact amplifier concepts. Novel manufacturing techniques, such as ultra-fast laser welding of glass-to-metal, autonomous robotic assembly and additive manufacturing are critically evaluated for their use and uptake in the design and manufacture of future industrial laser systems.

The experimental research is underpinned by mathematical modelling and simulation of the required laser device physics and engineering, which is also applicable to a wider range of laser systems.

His industry-focussed research is supported by EPSRC, Innovate UK, RAEng and industry partners Leonardo, Renishaw, Luxinar, PowerPhotonic and STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

PhD studentships and Post-Doctoral Research Associate positions are supported within these research themes.

Prof Daniel Esser has a relentless passion to see new technological developments in diode-pumped solid-state lasers to be adopted by industry.

Roles & Responsibilities

Supervisor to PhD & EngD Research Students.

Co-Investigator: EPSRC & Leonardo Prosperity Partnership (EP/X025365/1) Smart Products Made Smarter, Theme Lead: “Making Challenge” of the partnership. 

Co-Investigator: EPSRC Project (EP/V051164/1) Developing Machine Learning-empowered Responsive Manufacture of Industrial Laser Systems.

Co-Investigator: EPSRC Project (EP/V01269X/1) Ultra-short pulsed laser welding - an industrially-relevant manufacturing tool for bonding IR and visible optical materials.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure


  • QC Physics
  • laser
  • photonics
  • laser development
  • optics
  • Manufacturing
  • Production Processes


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