Photonics and Optics Fundamentals
2009-2010 - IMT4791 - 5 ECTS

Expected learning outcomes

The course is intended to be a brief but comprehensive description of some of the most relevant theoretical models (geometrical, wave and quantum optics) and phenomena (light propagation, polarization, interference, difrraction, scattering) in optics and photonics. It will also cover some relevant topics in modern optics (optic fibers, non-lineal systems, electro and acousto-optics).

On completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Understand (i.e. to describe, analyse and reaason about) the different theoretical descriptions provided for the optical phenomena and its range of validity, including the most relevant optical phenomena.
  • Solve some basic problems and exercises in which simple optical devices are involved, including the prediction of image position and size, intensity distributions of intensity and diffraction patterns.
  • Analyse some relevant characteristics of modern optical devices (laser, fibers, non-linear systems).


  1. Geometrical optics: fundamental concepts. Reflection and refraction laws. Thin lenses and optical instruments.
  2. Waves and electromagnetic theory of light: wave concepts. Maxwell’s equations. Characterization of dielectric media. Monochromatic electromagnetic waves in linear dielectric, non-dispersive, homogeneous and isotropic media. Non linear, dispersive and anisotropic media.
  3. Absorption, chromatic dispersion and spreading: absorption. Chromatic dispersion. Propagation of pulses in a dispersive medium. Spreading.
  4. Polarization: characterization of polarized light. Anisotropic media. Reflection and refraction in linear, homogeneous and anisotropic dielectrics. Polarizers and retarders. Optical activity and Faraday effect. Fluid crystals.
  5. Interferences: interference conditions. Young’s double slit experiment. Michelson’s interferometer. Interferences of multiple waves. Fabry-Perot interferometer. Interferential filters.
  6. Fourier optics: integral theorem of Helmholtz-Kirchhoff. Fresnel diffraction. Fresnel and Fraunhofer approximations. Fraunhofer diffraction through some apertures. Image formation and linear systems.
  7. Quantum optics: a photon and its characteristics. Quantization of light. Photon interactions with matter. Photoelectric effect.
  8. Laser fundamentals: resonant optical cavities. Stimulated emission and population inversion. Radiation amplification. Characteristic of light emitted from a laser. Examples of lasers.
  9. Electro and Acousto-Optics: Pockels and Kerr effects. Devices based on electro and acousto-optic effects.
  10. Waveguides and optical fibres: fundamental concepts for waveguides. Planar waveguides. Optical fibres. Attenuation and dispersion in optical fibres.
  11. Nonlinear optics: nonlinear media. Second harmonic generation. Three or four-wave mixing. Optical phase conjugation. Other nonlinear processes.

Teaching Methods

Laboratory work

Form(s) of Assessment


Form(s) of Assessment (additional text)

2 written exams (each 2 hours) (75%), exercises (25%). Exercices assessment based on 2 or 3 days of

Grading Scale

Alphabetical Scale, A(best) – F (fail)

External/internal examiner

One internal and one external examiner

Re-sit examination

Ordinary re-sit for the written exam.

Examination support


Teaching Materials

“Optics” E. Hetch. Addisson Wesley 2000

“Fundamentals of Photonics” B.E.A. Saleh and M.C. Teich. Wiley, 1991

“Introduction to Color Imaging Science” H-S Lee. Cambridge 2005.

Additional information