Course content

The course gives a detailed understanding of optical phenomena in nature and in modern optical sciences. In addition, the course  gives a good basis for optics course on msc level (kandidatuddannelsen), such as quantum optics, and quantum photonics.


B.Sc. Physics
MSc Programme in Physics w. minor subject

Learning outcome

With this course we aim at preparing the participant such that she/he can:

  • find wave solutions to Maxwell equations in homogene isotropic media, and to demonstrate the difference between longitudinale and transversal wave motion,
  • write up simple models for insulators and metals optical properties, and to apply these in connection with refraction and reflection,
  • understand geometrical optics as an approximation of wave optics and apply geometrical optics and ray tracing to optical components such as lenses, prisms, fibers etc,
  • understand polarization of light field and ways to prepare various polarized states of light, such as linearly and circularly polarized light, birefrigent crystals, find the optical axis, describe its nature, give details on polarization states of light upon reflections from metals and insulators,
  • understand interference and multilayer interference and their applications, using the matrix method and more simple approaches,
  • apply Huygens- Fresnel principle to various diffraction phenomena, and understand the basis for diffraction theory generally,
  • Understand the principles of the laser apply and describe Einsteins stimulates and spontaneous emission processes and their relevance for the laser.
  • Classify and apply modern optical components such as aspheric and spherical lenses, wave plates, optical crystals, etc.
  • have good experimental knowledge on how to measure and characterize optical components such as lenses, prisms, polarization states, diffraction from small holes, interference of light in various setups.

The optics course deals with classical optics and target both geometrical optics and wave optics. We will look at metals and insulators optical properties and give detailed descriptions based on the classical theory of conductivity of electrons in various materials.
Wave optics is based on solutions to the Maxwell equations and various approximate solution methods are discussed, such as the Huygens- Fresnel principle.
We discuss important applications in modern optics, such as PBS units, AOMs, wave plates, optical cavities, scattering of light.
Thoughout the course we discuss optical phenomena in nature such as, color, rainbow, sun dogs, hallows, green flash, atmospheric refraction, etc.
Elctromagnetic waves. Spreading of Light. Geomatrical Optics. Polarisation. Interference. Diffraction. The Laser. Applications in modern optics.

This course gives the student a competent background needed for following other, more advanced, optics courses.

The course consists of 4-6 hours lecture per week where demonstration experiments are included, 3 hours laboratory exercises where the student will play with optical phenomena related to the lectures. Finally there is 3 hours of problem session where the student will solve problems guided by a teacher. The problems also relate to the laboratory exercises and will provide an important basis for understanding the laboratory sessions.

See Absalon for final course material. The following is an example of expected course literature.


We use lecture notes, important historical articles any student should be familiar with and as a supplement Eugene Hecht, ”Optics”, fourth edition (Addison-Wesley 2002).

At least one course of electromagnetism and one of quantum mechanics.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 min
No preparation time
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
More internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Theory exercises
  • 28
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Preparation
  • 149,5
  • English
  • 206,0