2019 Optics

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Academic unit or major
Undergraduate major in Materials Science and Engineering
Vacha Martin 
Course component(s)
Day/Period(Room No.)
Mon7-8(S8-102)  Thr7-8(S8-102)  
Course number
Academic year
Offered quarter
Syllabus updated
Lecture notes updated
Language used
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Course description and aims

In the fields like opto-electronic engineering including, waveguides or displays, optical properties and function of materials, the knowledge of basic principles of optics is indispensable. In concrete terms, this course will start with the review of Maxwell’s equations, will use wave equation to describe the basic properties of light, and Fresnel equations to describe the phenomena of refraction and reflection. As examples of applications of these phenomena, the course will introduce optical fibers, waveguides and near-field optics. Furthermore, polarization state of light, polarizers and wave-retarders will be explained. After introducing the principles of interference examples of its applications in interferometers, multiple-beam interference, antireflection coatings and interference filters will be presented. Based on the explanation of the diffraction principle and Fraunhofer diffraction on a slit and a pinhole, resolution in optical instruments will be explained, and diffraction grating and monochromator will be introduced. Finally, Einstein's coefficients of absorption and emission, and the phenomena of spontaneous and stimulated emission will be used to introduce the principle and applications of laser. The course will be given entirely in English.

Student learning outcomes

This course will be based on the basic knowledge of electromagnetism, and will use this knowledge to cover the foundations of optics, including characteristics of light, refraction, polarization, interference and diffraction, with the aim of gaining thorough understanding of the optical phenomena. Furthermore, with the aid of demonstration experiments students will develop their abilities of observation of a phenomenon, formulation of a problem and of problem solving.
The knowledge of the basic principles of optics is indispensable in the fields of optical properties and optical functionality of materials, in material characterization and in opto-electronic and communication devices. While the core of the course will be classical linear optics, it will also involve principles of lasers and other recent topics of modern optics.


Character of light, propagation of light, polarization, interference, diffraction, principle of laser

Competencies that will be developed

Intercultural skills Communication skills Specialist skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills
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Class flow

The first 20 minutes of each class will be used to review the contents of the previous class and to explain solutions of exercise problems. In the beginning of the lecture itself, demonstration experiments will be often carried out, and the lecture will proceed with analysis of the observations of the phenomena from the experiment. Students are required to understand the contents of each class and review it for the next class.

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Basic character of light, Maxwell’s equations, light as electromagnetic waves, electric dipole radiation Maxwell’s equations
Class 2 Electromagnetic spectrum, energy of light, pressure of light, quanta of light, momentum of photons
Class 3 Propagation of light, refractive index, dispersion, Lorentz oscillator model
Class 4 Rayleigh scattering, Fresnel equations, reflection, refraction
Class 5 Total internal reflection, evanescent wave, near-field optics
Class 6 Principle of lens, waveguide, optical fiber
Class 7 Polarization of light, principle of polarizers, Jones matrix
Class 8 Birefringence, polarizers, wave-retarders
Class 9 Phenomena related to polarization, Faraday's effect, Kerr's effect
Class 10 Principle of interference, coherence of light
Class 11 Applications of interference, interferometers, multiple-beam interference, anti-reflection coating, interference filters
Class 12 Basics of diffraction, Fraunhofer diffraction on a slit and a pinhole
Class 13 Resolution of optical instruments, diffraction grating, principle of monochromator
Class 14 Einstein's coefficients of absorption and emission, spontaneous and stimulated emission
Class 15 Principle and applications of laser


Handout text will be provided for the first class

Reference books, course materials, etc.

E. Hecht: Optics (Addison Wesley)

Assessment criteria and methods

Understanding of contents of the lecture and the ability to use it will be evaluated. Final exam 90%, short tests and homeworks 10%.

Related courses

  • MAT.P303 : Solid State Physics (Electrons)
  • MAT.P301 : Solid State Physics (Lattice)

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

not required


course taught in English

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