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Atomic Physics, Lasers & Modern Optics - PHY00047H

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  • Department: Physics
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Greg Tallents
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20
    • See module specification for other years: 2018-19

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20 to Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims

Students should develop a basic understanding of the quantum mechanical treatments of atomic and molecular structure and the phenomenological nature of the interaction of light with atoms. A basic awareness of the physics of lasers is subsequently developed.

This course will also introduce the modern optics beginning with a description electromagnetic radiation and the use of Fourier techniques to describe optical systems. A central theme is a description of phase and coherence that enables a discussion of applications of modern optics including interference, diffraction and polarisation, by introducing interferometers, interference in multilayer films, diffracting gratings, holography, confocal microscope, and optical activity.

Module learning outcomes

  • Construct energy level diagrams of the fine structure of hydrogen and hydrogen-like ions.
  • Describe the origin of sub-shells, terms and multiplets for atoms with two or more electrons not in closed sub-shells.
  • Describe molecular energy levels, including vibrational and rotational levels.
  • Derive the relationship between the Einstein coefficients.
  • Determine a general formula for laser gain in a generalised four-level laser.
  • Derive an expression for Doppler broadening of a line profile.
  • Describe mode locking of a laser cavity.
  • Describe the operation of helium-neon and carbon dioxide lasers.
  • Describe how lasers can be used to cool atoms to form, for example, Bose-Einstein condensates.
  • Quantitatively describe the nature of electromagnetic radiation
  • Differentiate between coherent and incoherent sources of electromagnetic radiation
  • Calculate the propagation of electromagnetic radiation using Fourier techniques
  • Understand the principle of interferometers; be able to determine interference
  • fringes.
  • Understand the principle of antireflection coating; be able to design and analyze
  • multi-layer antireflection systems.
  • Understand the principal of a cavity and be able to describe the operation of a Fabry-
  • Perot interferometer
  • Understand the principle of holography; determine configurations of formation and
  • reconstruction of a hologram; determine transverse and axial magnifications.
  • Understand principle of diffraction grating; determine diffraction patterns, resolving
  • power, and spectrums by diffraction gratings.

Module content

Please note, students taking this module should have taken PHY00002I - Electromagnetism & Optics or the appropriate equivalent.


The quantum mechanics of atoms is introduced by re-visiting the hydrogen atom. Spin orbit splitting and the Lamb shift are introduced leading to a qualitative treatment of fine structure. Exchange parity and the Pauli exclusion principle are presented leading to a discussion of the structure of atoms with more than one electron. The inter-electron Coulomb and spin orbit interactions are introduced leading to a discussion of LS coupling and jj-coupling when there are two or more electrons not in closed sub-shells. The concept of sub-shells, terms and multiplets is presented. Molecular energy levels are introduced starting with the hydrogen molecule ion H2+ . Vibrational and rotational states are discussed. The interaction of light with atoms and molecules is further explored by re-visiting the Einstein A and B coefficient. This leads to a discussion on lasers and the gain coefficient. The concept of the lineshape function is introduced – Doppler broadening is considered. Laser cavities are briefly discussed leading to the concepts of longitudinal modes and mode locking. Helium-neon and carbon dioxide lasers are discussed. The technique of laser cooling is presented with a brief discussion of Bose-Einstein condensates.

  • Fourier optics (3 lectures)
    1. Paraxial approximation of the Helmholtz equation
    2. Diffraction – Fresnel and Fraunhofer approximations
  • Coherence – (3 lectures)
  1. Superposition of incoherent and coherent sources
  2. Coherence in Young’s slits (intro to coherence)
  3. Temporal coherence
  4. Spatial coherence
  5. The optical transfer theorem
  • Interferometry (4 lectures)
    1. Mirrored interferometers
    2. Multi-beam interference
    3. Antireflection coating and multilayer periodic systems
    4. Radar Interferometry
    5. Standing waves
    6. The Fabry-Perot interferometer
  • Holography (3 lectures)
    1. Recording amplitude and phase
    2. The recording media
    3. Reconstruction of the original wavefront
    4. Linearity of the holographic process
    5. Image formation by holography
  • Diffraction gratings: (3 lecture)
    1. N-slit diffraction
    2. Grating spectrometers
  • Confocal and phase contrast microscopes: (2 lectures)
  1. Basic concept
  2. Variants and resolution


Task Length % of module mark
Atomic Physics and Lasers PPQs
N/A 14
Online Exam
Atomic Physics & Lasers and Modern Optics
N/A 86

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Atomic Physics & Lasers and Modern Optics
N/A 86

Module feedback

Physics Practice Questions (PPQs) - You will receive the marked scripts via your pigeon holes. Feedback solutions will be provided on the VLE or by other equivalent means from your lecturer. As feedback solutions are provided, normally detailed comments will not be written on your returned work, although markers will indicate where you have lost marks or made mistakes. You should use your returned scripts in conjunction with the feedback solutions.

Exams - You will receive the marks for the individual exams from eVision. Detailed model answers will be provided on the intranet. You should discuss your performance with your supervisor.

Advice on academic progress - Individual meetings with supervisor will take place where you can discuss your academic progress in detail.

Indicative reading

Born, Max and Emil Wolf, Principles of Optics

Haken H and Wolf H C: The Physics of Atoms and Quanta (Springer).

Hawkes J and Latimer I: Lasers: Theory and Practice (Prentice-Hall).

Hecht, Eugene, Optics

Smith, F Graham, Terry A King and Dan Wilkins Optics and Photonics: An Introduction

Pedrotti, Pedritti, ‘Introduction to Optics’

Tallents, G J ‘An introduction to the atomic and radiation physics of plasmas’ (Cambridge University Press)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.