Optics and Photonics I module (PH41005)

Learn about the nature of light and its interactions with matter, lenses, and lasers. Explore all the optics concepts expected for a physics graduate

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Module code


The study of light is at the very centre of physics, especially relativity and quantum physics. Optics and Photonics is a broad, interdisciplinary field. Its applications range from microscopy to laser physics and telecommunications.

In this module, you will gain insight of contemporary optics and photonic systems.

You will learn about laser physics, polarisation, diffraction, and interference. This module covers all the optics concepts expected for a physics graduate. It lays the foundation for more advanced study in the optional module Optics and Photonics II (PH52011).

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • learn about the nature of light, including wave, ray, and photon descriptions
  • understand the matrix description of geometrical optics
  • understand electromagnetic waves as applied to optics
  • be introduced to different theories, calculations, and models about optical polarisation, diffraction, interference, and lasers

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the nature of light with wave, ray, and photon descriptions
  • discuss how interferometers such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) work to detect gravitational waves
  • calculate transmission, reflection, refraction, and diffraction in complex systems
  • understand how lasers work

Assignments / assessment

  • coursework (20%)
  • final exam (80%)

Teaching methods / timetable

You will learn by taking a hands-on approach. This will involve taking part in seminars, problem-solving workshops, and Physics Colloquia talks by invited speakers.

Learning material is provided through videos, review notes, examples, and tutorial questions.


This module is available on following courses: