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Introduction to Photonics

Code: 100164 ECTS Credits: 5
Degree Type Year Semester
2500097 Physics OT 3 2
The proposed teaching and assessment methodology that appear in the guide may be subject to changes as a result of the restrictions to face-to-face class attendance imposed by the health authorities.


Verónica Ahufinger Breto

Use of Languages

Principal working language:
english (eng)
Some groups entirely in English:
Some groups entirely in Catalan:
Some groups entirely in Spanish:


Eulalia Nicolau Jimenez


There are no prerequisites.

Objectives and Contextualisation

The main objective of this subject is to study the technological applications of light emphasising the physical principles at the basis of the photonic systems. Specifically, we will study different light sources and detectors and the propagation of light in waveguides, photonic crystals, metamaterials and nonlinear media. We will also address how to modulate light by means of electro-optical and acousto-optical effects, spatial light modulators and filters.


  • Act with ethical responsibility and respect for fundamental rights and duties, diversity and democratic values.
  • Apply fundamental principles to the qualitative and quantitative study of various specific areas in physics
  • Be familiar with the bases of certain advanced topics, including current developments on the parameters of physics that one could subsequently develop more fully
  • Communicate complex information in an effective, clear and concise manner, either orally, in writing or through ICTs, and before both specialist and general publics
  • Develop the capacity for analysis and synthesis that allows the acquisition of knowledge and skills in different fields of physics, and apply to these fields the skills inherent within the degree of physics, contributing innovative and competitive proposals.
  • Make changes to methods and processes in the area of knowledge in order to provide innovative responses to society's needs and demands.
  • Take account of social, economic and environmental impacts when operating within one's own area of knowledge.
  • Use critical reasoning, show analytical skills, correctly use technical language and develop logical arguments
  • Use mathematics to describe the physical world, selecting appropriate tools, building appropriate models, interpreting and comparing results critically with experimentation and observation
  • Work independently, have personal initiative and self-organisational skills in achieving results, in planning and in executing a project

Learning Outcomes

  1. Based on the principles of optics, describe light propagation in optical fibres and waveguides, photonic crystals and nonlinear media.
  2. Calculate the modes of optical waveguides or fibers and the coupling between waveguides.
  3. Characterize the second- and third-order nonlinear response of an optical medium.
  4. Communicate complex information in an effective, clear and concise manner, either orally, in writing or through ICTs, in front of both specialist and general publics.
  5. Describe the basic processes of light-matter interaction and the working principle of the laser.
  6. Describe the different processes of light emission and detection.
  7. Describe the longitudinal, transverse and frequency modulation of light.
  8. Develop an understanding of the basics of the applications of light modulators in technological areas.
  9. Develop an understanding of the general properties of metamaterials and their potential applications.
  10. Distinguish the industrial and scientific applications of lasers in areas such as medicine, biophotonics and metrology.
  11. Explain the explicit or implicit code of practice of one's own area of knowledge.
  12. Identify current social, environmental and economic challenges in photonics.
  13. Identify situations in which a change or improvement is needed.
  14. Identify the social, economic and environmental implications of academic and professional activities within one’s own area of knowledge.
  15. Learn the basic principles of light propagation in periodic media.
  16. Model laser emission using rate equations.
  17. Use critical reasoning, show analytical skills, correctly use technical language and develop logical arguments
  18. Work independently, take initiative itself, be able to organize to achieve results and to plan and execute a project.



1.1-What is Photonics?

1.2-Fundamental features of light according to Ray Optics, Wave and Electromagnetic Optics and Quantum Optics.

1.3-Applications and basic research.

2-Light sources and detectors

2.1-Thermal emitters: Incandescence, Blackbody radiation, the Sun, incandescent lamps and halogen lamps.  

2.2-Non thermal emitters: Luminescence. Discharge lamps. Light emitting diodes.

2.3-L.A.S.E.R. Active medium. Basic processes of light-matter interaction. Pumping mechanisms. Threshold population inversion. Amplification coefficient. Optical resonators. Properties and applications of laser light. Types of lasers.

2.4-Detectors. General features. Linearity. Sensitivity. Response speed. Types of detectors.

3-Light propagation

3.1-Waveguides. Dielectric planar waveguides. Bidimensional waveguides. Optical fibers. Curved waveguides. Coupling between waveguides. Integrated optical systems.

3.2-Periodic structures. Photonic crystals. Dimensionality. Band structure. Defects. Metamaterials.  

3.3-Nonlinear media. Second order nonlinearity: parametric oscillation and second harmonic generation. Third order nonlinearity: Optical Kerr effect and four wave mixing.

4-Light modulation

4.1-Longitudinal modulation. Electro-optical effects: Pockels effect, Kerr effect and liquid crystals. Acousto-optical effects. Magneto-optical effects: Faraday effect.

4.2-Transversal modulation. Spatial light modulators. Liquid crystal devices.

4.3-Modulation in frequency. Filters. Monocromators. Interferometers.


The directed activities consist in lectures (classes of theory) and classes of exercises. 

In the lectures, the course contents will be discussed in detail always encouraging students participation by raising questions.

In the exercises classes, we will encourage the students to participate actively either asking questions or contributing to the resolution of the exercises during the class.

The required autonomous work of the student in this subject includes the study of theoretical concepts, the preparation and solution of exercises, the delivery of activities and the preparation of an oral presentation. This last activity will be done in group.

The materials for the theory and exercises classes will be posted in the UAB Campus Virtual of the subject.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Exercises classes 14 0.56 2, 3, 16, 17
Lectures (Theory classes) 27 1.08 15, 8, 9, 6, 5, 7, 1, 10, 12, 17
Type: Autonomous      
Preparation of activities to deliver 7 0.28 17
Preparation of the oral presentation 7 0.28 10, 12, 17
Study and preparation of the exercises 28 1.12 2, 3, 16, 17
Study of theory concepts 36 1.44 15, 8, 9, 6, 5, 7, 1, 10, 12, 17


The final mark of the subject will be obtained as follows:

  • 35% : Mark of the first partial exam.
  • 35% : Mark of the second partial exam.
  • 15% : Mark of the activities to deliver.
  • 15% : Mark of the oral presentation.

In order to apply these percentages, the mark in each of the partial exams should be equal or above 3,5 from 10. If the mark of one or both partial exams is below 3,5, the student has to do a retaking exam of the part of the subject failed with mark below 3,5.  If a student has passed the subject but he/she would like to improve the mark of the written exams, he/she can do a retaking exam and the final mark of the subject will be calculated using the percentages shown above with the mark obtained in the retaking exam. If a student does not attend any of the exams or only attends one of the partial exams, his/her mark will be “No avaluable”.

Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Deliveries 15% 0 0 17
First partial exam 35% 3 0.12 2, 6, 5, 16, 17
Oral presentation 15% 0 0 4, 10, 11, 12, 14, 13, 17, 18
Retaking exam first partial 35% 0 0 2, 3, 15, 8, 9, 6, 5, 7, 1, 16, 17
Retaking exam second partial 35% 0 0 2, 3, 15, 8, 9, 6, 5, 7, 1, 16, 17
Second partial exam 35% 3 0.12 2, 3, 15, 8, 9, 7, 1, 17


-B.E.A. Saleh & M.C. Teich, Fundamentals of Photonics, John Wiley & Sons, Inc (2007).

-R. Mentzel, Photonics: linear and nonlinear interactions of laser light and matter. Springer (2007).

-C.L. Chen, Foundations for guided-wave optics. John Wiley & Sons (2007).

-P.W. Milonni & J.H. Eberly, Lasers, John Wiley & Sons, Inc (1988).

-K. Shimoda, Introduction to Laser Physics, Springer (1986).

-O. Svelto, Principles of Lasers, 5th edition.Plenum Press (2010).

-J. D. Joannopoulos, S. G. Johnson, J. N. Winn, R. D. Meade, Photonic crystals. Molding the Flow of Light. Princeton University Press (2008).

-N. M. Litchintser, I. R. Gabitov, A. I. Maimistov, V. M. Shalaev, Negative Refractive Index Metamaterials in Optics, Progress in Optics 51, Chapter 1, pp 1-68 (2008).

-R. W. Boyd, Nonlinear Optics, Academic Press (2008).

-J. M. Cabrera, F. Agulló, F. J. López, Óptica Electromagnética: Materiales y aplicaciones, Addison Wesley Iberoamericana, Iberoamericana, 2a Ed. (1998).