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Fundamentals of Photonics

SPIE is providing free and open access to this material as a service to the optics community and the general public.

Fundamentals of Photonics is designed for first- and second-year college students, but it is also suitable for both traditional and non-traditional students interested in learning the basics. We hope the contents of this book (freely available below) will meet the needs of students of all ages, including life-long learners, who want to develop their interest in the continuously evolving fields of optics and photonics.

The roots of this manuscript go back to a government-funded project for community college students known as Photonics Curriculum Development (PCD). PCD was managed by the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD). SPIE and Optical Society of America members donated their time, experience, and ideas to develop PCD. Then, a National Science Foundation-funded project called STEP-I (Scientific and Technological Education in Optics and Photonics) used PCD as a template and created the 10-chapter book Fundamentals of Photonics. The University of Connecticut managed the STEP-I project, and CORD was a subcontractor.

We greatly appreciate that SPIE has agreed to help the STEP-I project freely disseminate the contents of the book as downloadable chapters through their professionally maintained website. We also appreciate the contributions of every author who contributed to this project. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the late Dr. Arthur Guenther, who got me involved in this project. Art was a tireless promoter and facilitator in bringing people, organizations, and ideas together with the goal of creating a workable synthesis of academia and industry around the world.

We openly welcome your suggestions for the future development of these chapters to match the needs of students at different levels from different countries, while also accommodating the requirements for local industries.

Prof. Chandrasekhar Roychoudhuri
Principal Investigator, STEP-I Project

Photonics Lab., Physics Department
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT 06269, USA

Module 1.1
Nature and Properties of Light

Linda J. Vandergriff
Director of Photonics System Engineering
Science Applications International Corporation
McLean, Virginia
The generation, transport, manipulation, detection, and use of light are at the heart of photonics. Photonics is a growing career field with a projected growth rate of 10% to 20% over the next decade. Photonics technicians and engineers must master new concepts, learn new techniques, and develop new skills derived from a highly developed understanding of the nature of light and its properties.

Module 1.2
Light Sources and Laser Safety
Fred Seeper
Camden County College
Blackwood, New Jersey
This module addresses various non-laser light sources, such as incandescent lamps, fluorescent discharge lamps, high-intensity discharge lamps, flashlamps, arc lamps, and LEDs. It also discusses laser safety in detail, including the human eye, laser hazards, laser safety controls, maximum permissible exposure, laser safety glasses, and laser accidents. The laboratory experience at the end of the module will enhance the learner's ability to understand the dangers associated with lasers, with small and large beam diameters, and with constant power levels.

Module 1.3
Basic Geometrical Optics
Leno S. Pedrotti
Waco, Texas

This module covers the first of two main divisions of basic optics-geometrical (ray) optics. Module 1.4 covers physical (wave) optics. Geometrical optics will help you understand the basics of light reflection and refraction and the use of simple optical elements, such as mirrors, prisms, lenses, and fibers. Physical optics will help you understand the phenomena of light wave interference, diffraction, and polarization; the use of thin-film coatings on mirrors to enhance or suppress reflection; and the operation of such devices as gratings and quarter-wave plates.

Module 1.4
Basic Physical Optics
Leno S. Pedrotti
Waco, Texas

In this module, we concentrate on light waves and away from light rays, as covered in Module 1.3. In so doing, we move from a concern over the propagation of light energy along straight-line segments to one that includes the spreading of light energy-a fundamental behavior of all wave motion. With wave optics-commonly referred to as physical optics-we are able to account for important phenomena, such as interference, diffraction, and polarization. The study of these phenomena lays the foundation for an understanding of such devices and concepts as holograms, interferometers, thin-film interference, coatings for antireflection (AR) and high reflection (HR), gratings, polarizers, quarter-wave plates, and laser beam divergence in the near and far field.

Module 1.5

William T. Silfvast
School of Optics/CREOL
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

This module is an in-depth explanation of lasers as they apply to the larger field of optics and photonics. Anyone going through this module should have already completed Modules 1.1-1.4 and have a good working knowledge of algebra, exponents, and logarithms. Lasers are devices that amplify or increase the intensity of light to produce a highly directional, high-intensity beam that typically has a very pure frequency or wavelength. They come in sizes ranging from approximately one-tenth the diameter of a human hair to that of a very large building. Lasers produce powers ranging from nanowatts to a billion trillion watts for very short bursts. They produce wavelengths or frequencies ranging from the microwave region and infrared to the visible, ultraviolet, vacuum ultraviolet, and into the soft-X-ray spectral regions. They generate the shortest bursts of light that man has yet produced, or approximately five million-billionths of a second. They are clearly devices of tremendous power with myriad applications.

Module 1.6
Optical Detectors and Human Vision

Jack Ready
Consultant, formerly with Honeywell Technology Center
Edina, Minnesota

In this module, we describe some common optical detectors and their important characteristics. We do not cover the entire field of light detection, which is very broad. Instead, we emphasize those detectors that are most commonly encountered in photonics applications. The two main types of optical detectors are photon detectors and thermal detectors. Photon detectors produce one electron for each incoming photon of optical energy. The electron is then detected by the electronic circuitry. Thermal detectors convert the optical energy to heat energy, which then generates an electrical signal. Our coverage focuses on these two main types of detectors.

Module 1.7
Optical Waveguides and Fibers

Ajoy Ghatak and K. Thyagarajan
Department of Physics
Indian Institute of Technology
New Delhi, India
This module is an introduction to the basics of fiber optics, discussing especially the characteristics of optical fibers with regards to the fabrication of low-loss optical fibers and the room-temperature operation of semiconductor lasers in 1970. Within a brief span of 30 years, we are now in the fifth generation of optical fiber communication systems. Recent developments in optical amplifiers and wavelength division multiplexing (WDN) are taking us to a communication system with almost "zero" loss and "infinite" bandwidth. Optical fiber communication systems are now fulfilling the increased demand on communication links, especially with the proliferation of the Internet. This module tracks the evolution of these systems that are now so critical to our daily lives.

Module 1.8
Fiber Optic Telecommunication
Nick Massa
Springfield Technical Community College
Springfield, Massachusetts

Fiber optics is a major building block in the telecommunication infrastructure. Its high bandwidth capabilities and low attenuation characteristics make it ideal for gigabit transmission and beyond. In this module, you will be introduced to the building blocks that make up a fiber-optic communication system. You will learn about the different types of fibers (and their applications), light sources and detectors, couplers, splitters, wavelength-division multiplexers, and the state-of-the-art devices used in the latest high-bandwidth communication systems. Attention is also given to system performance criteria, such as power and rise-time budgets. Before you work through this module, you should have completed Module 1.7. In addition, you should be able to manipulate and use algebraic formulas, deal with units, and use basic trigonometric functions, such as sine, cosine, and tangent. A basic understanding of wavelength, frequency, and the velocity of light is also assumed.

Module 1.9
Photonic Devices for Imaging, Display, and Storage

Harley R. Myler
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

Electronic and electro-optic devices are frequently used to display images obtained from the computer processing of data. Images, or digital pictures, are generally two-dimensional data structures that convey spatial information to the viewer. Images are collected through various means, from digital cameras to laser radar scanning systems. Once stored in a computer, these images can be manipulated mathematically to accomplish many different objectives. The improvement of images for viewing or analysis and computer interpretation of image content are among those objectives. This module explains the terminology associated with images, how images are acquired and stored, and how images are displayed.

Module 1.10
Basic Principles and Applications of Holography
Tung H. Jeong
Lake Forest College
Lake Forest, Illinois
Holography is a much broader field than most people have perceived. Recording and displaying truly three-dimensional images are only small parts of it. Holographic optical elements (HOE) can perform the functions of mirrors, lenses, gratings, or combinations of them, and they are used in myriad technical devices. Holographic interferometry measures microscopic displacement on the surface of an object and small changes in the index of refraction of transparent objects like plasma and heat waves. Future photonic devices, such as electro-optical chips, will undoubtedly incorporate micro-lasers and HOEs for optical computations, free-space interconnects, and massive analog and digital memory systems. You will need to have studied Modules 1.1-1.4. In this module, a physical model will be developed so that every major feature of basic holography can be explained through visualization and without the use of mathematics. Basic trigonometry will be helpful, but not required, for quantitative understanding.

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