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Semester 1

Lasers and Applications (PHYS11044)


Physics and Astronomy





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Course Summary

Lasers are now commonplace throughout many aspects of everyday life, e.g. in bar code readers, eye surgery, optical communication, industrial processing, spectroscopy and many bioscience applications. The course starts with a review of the basic physics of optical cavities and the spontaneous/stimulated emission from materials leading to laser amplifiers and oscillators. Atomic, ionic and molecular gas lasers are discussed and the optical properties of laser cavities are introduced. Examples of laser applications are presented including optical communication and holography.

Course Description

The topics covered in this course are:1). Introduction to lasers and why they are useful; comparison to black body radiator; scope of the course.2). Einstein treatment of the interaction of radiation and matter; intro to conditions for optical gain.3). Spectral line-shapes and finite lifetime; simple cavity model; condition for amplification.4). Intensity transmitted by a Fabry-Perot cavity; the meaning of finesse; laser modes and gain; cavities inside cavities.5). Four level laser; population inversion; gain saturation; examples of key lasers.6). Q-switching in theory and practice; the acousto-optic effect.7). Laser modes; properties of a single mode; longitudinal and transverse coherence; beats.8). Multi-mode lasers; derivation of mode locking effect; active and passive mode locking; Kerr lens.9). Geometric optics revision; lenses, mirrors and optical instruments.10). Standing waves in closed and open cavities; two concave surfaces and diffraction; Gaussian beams; pictorial derivation stability conditions; effect of cavity parameters on modes.11). Optical communication; modes and dispersion; wavelength bands.12). Introduction to holography; formation of an image; practicalities.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 50%, Coursework 50%, Practical Exam 0%

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