Course content

The course treats the basics of ray and wave optics as tools to understand and describe both optical phenomena in nature as well as optical instruments in modern technology.
The course gives a good basis for more advanced optics courses on the MSc level (kandidatuddannelsen), such as quantum optics, and quantum photonics.


BSc Programme in Physics

Learning outcome


After completion of this course the participant should be able to:

  • construct wave solutions to Maxwell's equations in homogeneous isotropic media
  • discuss the refractive index and dispersion for insulators and metals
  • discuss Rayleigh scattering and related optical phenomena in nature
  • apply Fresnel's relations for refraction and reflection at interfaces
  • understand geometrical optics as an approximation to wave optics
  • use ray tracing methods to characterize optical components and systems
  • understand and explain optical instruments such as telescopes, microscopes, etc.
  • analyze and prepare the polarization state of light using optical components
  • discuss the propagation of light in birefringent media
  • explain interference phenomena and discuss interferometers as optical instruments
  • apply the Huygens-Fresnel principle to various diffraction phenomena
  • discuss Fraunhofer and Fresnel diffraction in simple geometries
  • set up and perform simple experiments illustrating concepts in optics 


  • description of light as classical electromagnetic waves
  • optical properties of materials
  • the geometrical optics limit
  • basic optical components and instruments
  • polarization states of light
  • interference of light
  • diffraction of light
  • applications of optics in science and technology
  • optical phenomena in nature and their explanation 


This course gives the student a solid basis for further more advanced or specialized optics courses.

Lectures/Tutorials, exercises, laboratory exercises.

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

Eugene Hecht, ”Optics”, 5th (global) edition (Pearson 2017). Supplementary lecture notes.

The first year of physics education including electromagnetism. Knowledge of vector calculus.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 min
Type of assessment details
oral exam
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

same as regular exam

Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 131,5
  • Theory exercises
  • 28
  • Laboratory
  • 18
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • English
  • 206,0


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level

1 block

Block 3
The number of places might be reduced if you register in the late-registration period (BSc and MSc) or as a credit or single subject student.
Study Board of Physics, Chemistry and Nanoscience
Contracting department
  • The Niels Bohr Institute
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Jörg Helge Müller   (6-6f776e6e67744270646b306d7730666d)
Saved on the 14-02-2024

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Courseinformation of students