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Last modified: 09 Jun 2014 10:19

Course Overview

In recent years optical systems have become the centrepiece of many applications in science, engineering and commerce; ranging from optical communications to fibre sensors, holography to 3DTV, spectroscopy of materials to laser welding and cutting, and from precision measurement to laser surgery, to name but a few. The course offers students an overview of the concepts of modern optics, optical systems and sensing applications. A major part involves an introduction to lasers, their operation and incorporation into systems design. A case study approach is adopted to describe a range of sensing and system applications in industry, science and commerce.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 5
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Professor John Watson

Qualification Prerequisites

  • Programme Level 5

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

1. Introduction to concepts of optical systems engineering; brief outline of general ideas; overview of course objectives and content; where optical engineering fits into other branches of engineering
2. Review of nature and behaviour of light; review of optical properties of materials, semi-conductors, and pn junctions.
3. Fundamental laser principles: stimulated and spontaneous emission, population inversion, amplification of light, three-and-four-level laser systems; optical resonant cavities; power output; optimum output coupling.
4. Laser systems: general laser properties; gas-lasers and detailed discussion of HeNe, argon-ion and CO2 systems; solid state lasers and detailed discussion of ruby and Nd-YAG lasers; pumping networks. Other relevant laser systems
5. Semi-conductor lasers and LED's: injection luminescence in a pn junction, direct and indirect band gaps; LED's, laser diodes; homojunction and hetrojunction structures, laser diode arrays; diode-pumped lasers; design of laser driver circuits.
6. Laser safety: Introduction to concepts of laser safety; outline of European laser safety standard and its interpretation; outline of laser safety calculations for typical lasers and systems.
7. Photodetectors: performance characteristics; semiconductor detectors, LDR's and junction detectors; photoconductive and photovoltaic modes; circuit design; imaging detectors, diode arrays; CCD and CMOS sensors; modern digital cameras and video-cameras
8. Radiometry and light coupling: basic optics; radiometric and photometric quantities; spatial radiation profiles; concepts of light transfer; direct and indirect coupling of light; light coupling calculations; fibre light guides; numerical aperture of fibres; types of fibre; fibre bandwidth and attenuation; coupling into fibres.
9. Outline and discussion of typical applications of optical engineering in science and industry. These will be presented as case studies and will draw out the main engineering decisions and component choices made in their implementation (e.g. choice of source, detector, and performance required). The case studies will include some of the following: design of a diode-pumped laser for subsea application; outline of a fibre-optic communication link; design of a fibre sensor for use in a typical industrial application (e.g. current measurement in a transmission line); holography and applications in remote particle sizing and interferometry; materials processing and laser welding and cutting; particle image velocimetry (PIV); laser induced breakdown spectroscopy of steel.

Degree Programmes for which this Course is Prescribed

  • Master of Engineering in Electrical & Electronic Engineering
  • Master of Engineering in Electrical & Electronic w Eur Stud
  • Master of Engineering in Electronic & Computer Engineering
  • Master of Engineering in Electronic Eng'g wth Communications

Contact Teaching Time

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Teaching Breakdown


1st attempt: 1 three hour written exam (80%) and continuous assessment (20%).

Formative Assessment



Students can receive feedback on their progress with the Course on request at the bi-weekly tutorial/feedback sessions. Students requesting feedback on their exam performance should make an appointment during the scheduled feedback session which will be announced within 4 weeks of the publication of the exam result.

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