Master Course Description

No: EE 485

Title: Introduction to Photonics

Credits: 4

UW Course Catalog Description

Coordinator: Lih Lin, Professor of Electrical Engineering

Goals: To acquaint students with vocabulary, major principles and phenomena of modern optics and photonic devices.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain major concepts of electromagnetic theory.
  2. Describe light propagation in free space and materials.
  3. Derive and explain equations for interference and diffraction phenomena.
  4. Apply polarization to treatment of light.
  5. Perform analysis of optical resonators and waveguiding structures.
  6. Describe the concept of photons and how laser works.
  7. Design and use various semiconductor photonic devices.


F. L. Pedrotti L. S. Pedrotti, and L. M. Pedrotti, Introduction to Optics, 3rd ed., Prentice Hall, 2007.

Reference Texts:

B. E. A. Saleh and M. C. Teich, "Fundamentals of Photonics", John Wiley & Sons, 1991.

J. T. Verdeyen, Laser Electronics, 3rd ed., Prentice Hall, 1995.

S. O. Kasap, Optoelectronics and Photonics, 2nd 3d., Prentice Hall, 2012.

Prerequisites by Topic:

  1. Basic principles of electromagnetism (PHYS 122, PHYS 123, EE 361, or Equivalent)
  2. Complex numbers and functions
  3. Introductory differential and integral calculus, linear differential equations


  1. Geometrical optics: Reflection, refraction, total internal reflection, applications in optical fibers.
  2. Electromagnetic theory of light: Optical wave functions, wave equations, Maxwell's equations in various media, energy flow and absorption.
  3. Interference: Principle of superposition and interference, two-beam interference and interferometry, multi-wave interference, Fabry-Perot interferometer, group/phase velocity and dispersion.
  4. Diffraction: Fraunhofer diffraction, Fresnel diffraction, diffraction gratings.
  5. Polarization: Jones vectors and Jones matrices, Fresnel equations, polarization devices.
  6. Photon, laser, and Gaussian-beam optics: Photon optics, laser basics, optical resonators, Gaussian beam, transmission of Gaussian beams through optical components.
  7. Semiconductor optics: Basic semiconductor physics, interaction of photons with semiconductors, absorption and emission.
  8. Semiconductor photonic devices: p-n junctions, light-emitting diodes, semiconductor lasers, photodetectors and photovoltaic devices.

Course Structure: Class meets for two lectures a week, each consisting of a 100 minute session with 10 minute break in between. There is weekly homework assignment. There are two exams (one midterm and one final). If a TA is assigned to this course, there will be one final project. The final project is a team work. Each team will submit a project report.

Computer Resources: None required, although Mathcad, Matlab or Mathematica may be useful for some of the homework assignments.

Laboratory Resources: Not required.

Grading: Homework (40%), Midterm exam (30%), Final exam (30%). If a final project is included, then Homework (30%), Midterm exam (25%), Final exam (25%), Final project report (20%).

Outcome Coverage:

(a) An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering. The course applies knowledge of mathematics to description and analysis of optical phenomena. Electromagnetic theory and optics formalisms are used throughout the course. Relevance: High.

(b) An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as analyze and interpret data. The final project, if included, requires conducting experiments. General guidance will be given, but specific procedures will be designed by each team as they attempt to answer specific questions. Experimental design and the conduct of experiments will be tested through final project reports (20% of the final grade). There are also some in-class experiments for this course. Relevance: Low.

(c) An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability. Analysis and design of photonic components and systems are introduced throughout the course. Together with associated homework and examination problems, they challenge the students to understand design rules for advanced optical components and systems to be applied in real world. Relevance: Low.

(d) An ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams. To perform well in this class requires understanding of basic knowledge in Electrical Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics. The class has been attended by students from EE, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, Material Science and Engineering, Applied Math. Relevance: Medium.

(e) An ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems. The course projects involve identifying engineering problems associated with design and analysis of optical systems. Students are assigned homework and challenged to formulate their individual solutions. Relevance: High.

(h) The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context. Photonics has made its impact in optical fiber communications, and has become a required knowledge for various interdisciplinary fields such as nanoscience, nanotechnology, and biophotonics. Through this course, students will be able to learn the impact of photonics on various innovation and problems related to these fields. Relevance: Low.

(k) An ability to use the techniques, skills and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice. To solve problems in photonics requires the ability to use several basic tools, skills, and tools in engineering. Relevance: Medium.

Preparers: Lih Y. Lin

Last Revised: October 4, 2012