Personal profile

Research interests

Robert Maier’s research is directed at the application of fibre optic sensing technology in engineering. 

Fibre optic sensors have a number of unique capabilities such as the ability to carry out distributed sensing over length ranges from mm to 100’s of km. They are immune to electromagnetic environments and if used in a wavelength encoded manner are easily calibrated and traceable to fundamental standards.  In Roberts research many of these capabilities are exploited to provide sensing capabilities in new and exciting fields.  His current and recent research has led to the development of embedment technologies to enable fibre optic strain and temperature sensing from within additively mnanufactured components (by SLM and LMD) in stainless steel for application at very high temepratures of up to 900oC.  The sensors comprise fibre Bragg gratings and especially Fabry-Perot based sensors which have been shown to be thermally stable over extended periods of months at temperatures of up to 8050oC. 

As part of this research,  Robert also investigates the properties of 3D printing technologies for metals to improve their performance and structural integrity and dimensional accuracy. 

Laser based manufacturing including 3D printing, especially of glass and ceramic materials for the generation of micro structured componets and devices complement his research activities in the area of High Power Laser Applications. 

One particular aim of this activity is to develop artifical porous materials in glasses to simulate rock for investigations of flow characteristics in micro porous media with integrated sensors to study reactivity and processes at the pore level.  This is an important aspect in the understanding of enhanced oil recovery (EOR), carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the protection of ground water resources.    


Robert Maier graduated Dipl.Ing.FH in 1980 in Feinwerktechnik. After a year as researcher at a clinic for nuclear medicine he joined the MPI for Quantum Optics as experimental officer. Here he developed his interest into laser technology, mass spectrometry and experimental instrumentation. In 1985 he joined Technolas Lasertechnik as R&D manager, developing excimer lasers for medical applications in ophthalmology). In 1987 he joined FORTH, the leading research institution in Crete to assist in building up their infrastructure and research facilities and to carry out research into LIBS of metal ores. He then moved on to Edinburgh University, Chemistry in 1988. where he continued research begun at FORTH. His main interests focused on laser based material analysis, photo electron spectroscopy, time of flight mass spectrometry, but in particular he worked on MALDI, molecular beam instrumentation and optical spectroscopy. 1998 he joined the Physics department (now Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences)  at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh where he is currently a Research Fellow working on fibre optic sensor technology in engineering applications and high power laser applications . In 2006 he was awarded a PhD in Physics on "Application of Fibre Bragg Gratings in Sensor Technology".  Robert is also an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering, teaching "Specialist Manufacturing Technologies", "Design and Manufacture" and "Automotive technology".  

His research focuses on optical sensor technology for physical measurements, the application of FBGs in sensor systems and the use of absolute interferometric distance sensing for engineering applications. Environmental sensing, especially fibre optic based hydrogen sensing, is another corner stone of his activities. More recently he also restarted research in high power laser applications for precision machining and engineering applications.

During Summer semester 2012 he was invited to the Munich University for Applied Sciences [MUAS] as a visiting Professor on a Fellowship, At MUAS he taught a course on Optoelectronic Instrumentation and collaborates with Johannes Roths on high temperature compatible fibre Bragg gratings. He is also a Fellow of MUAS.

In August 2017 Robert moved on into partial retirement and is currently an Honorary Assitant Professor.  He maintains his connections with the active research portfolio of the School and Institute (IPaQS) and continues to supervise and guide his current PhD students to their completion.   


Roles & Responsibilities

Roles & Responsibilities

Robert is the Bussines Manager of the Strategic Alliance between Heriot-Waytt University and AWE plc. with a remit to organise, promote, guide and manage the research and Development activities in collaboration with AWE.  

External positions

Member Scientific Advisory Council, The Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology in Jena, Germany

1 Oct 201730 Sep 2020

Honorary Fellow , Munich University of Applied Sciences

10 May 2012 → …

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Co Author Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Selected Research Output 1999 2018

Embedded fibre optic sensors within additive layer manufactured components

Maier, R. R. J., MacPherson, W. N., Barton, J., Carne, M., Swan, M., Sharma, J. N., Futter, S. K., Knox, D. A., Jones, B. J. S. & McCulloch, S. Mar 2013 In : IEEE Sensors Journal. 13, 3, p. 969-979 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Activities 1998 2017

  • 1 Publication peer-review
  • 1 Membership of peer review panel
  • 1 Other
  • 1 Oral presentation

Fabrication of three-dimensional micro-structures in glass by picosecond laser micro-machining and welding

Wlodarczyk, K. (Speaker), Carter, R. (Contributor), Jahanbakhsh, A. (Contributor), Hand, D. P. (Contributor), Maier, R. R. J. (Contributor), Maroto-Valer, M. M. (Contributor)
6 Jun 2017

Activity: Oral presentation

European Association of National Metrology Institutes (External organisation)

Maier, R. R. J. (Member)
7 Oct 2013 → …

Activity: Membership of peer review panel

Visiting Professor, Guest lectureship

Maier, R. R. J. (Visitor)
15 Mar 20125 Jul 2012

Activity: Other

IEEE (Publisher)

Maier, R. R. J. (Peer reviewer)
1 Oct 1998 → …

Activity: Publication peer-review