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Admission Requirements



In the Optics course you learn to describe light with either optical rays or electromagnetic waves. This enables you to solve most problems in Optics.

The lecture material is divided over four blocks:
1. In Geometric Optics you use optical rays and the principles of Huygens and Fermat to describe the operation of optical instruments like lenses, microscopes and telescopes, including their limitations.
2. In Wave Optics you treat light as an electromagnetic wave and encounter wave phenomena like diffraction and interference.
3. To handle the associated mathematical, you first study some general properties of oscillations and waves, including sound and water waves.
4. Finally, you analyze the optical polarization of light and ways to transform it.

As this course is presented in a 'Flipped Classroom' form, it requires extra preparation and planning.

The course addresses the following topics:

  • Propagation of light: Huygens sources & Fermat’s principle

  • Geometric optics: Refraction via Snell’s law and lens action through refraction at curved surfaces

  • Optical instruments: eye, microscope, telescope

  • Harmonic oscillation and phasors

  • Waves: interfering waves and the difference between phase and group velocity

  • Interferometers: Young’s double slit, Newton’s rings, Michelson and Fabry-Perot interferometer

  • Diffraction: single slit and double slit with finite width

  • Gratings: diffraction of N slits, diffraction orders and the resolution of a grating spectrometer

  • Optical polarization: linear and circular polarization, birefringence, λ/2 en λ/4 plates, Brewster’s angle

Course Objectives

Main learning objective of BSc course Optics: you are able to solve a large variety of exercise in which light is described either as a bundle of rays or as an electro-magnetic wave;

After this course, you are able to:

  • Derive Snell’s law, using phase fronts and rays;

  • Calculate the lens action produced by curved interfaces and describe potential aberrations;

  • Explain the working principle of various optical instruments, by sketching the prime optical rays and linking them to the essential properties of the instruments;

  • Use phasors in exercises dealing with harmonic oscillations and interference;

  • Quantity the difference between the phase and group velocity of a traveling wave;

  • Solve a variety of exercises on optical interference, including (variations on) Young’s double-slit experiment, and two-beam interference in thin films and interferometers;

  • Quantify the far-field diffraction pattern behind a slit or circular hole and calculate the associated (diffraction) limit of optical instruments, like telescopes and microscopes;

  • Quantify the diffraction pattern behind N slits in terms of diffraction orders and spectral resolution;

  • Explain the working principle of a Fabry-Perot interferometer by solving an infinite sum of reflections;

  • Compare different forms of optical polarization and calculate how polarizers and phase plates modify this polarization.

Generic Skills (soft skills)

  • you prepare for lectures and working classes by studying the lecture material (videoclips and book)

  • you plan ahead in order to distribute your study load over the full lecture period.



Mode of Instruction

Hoorcollege, werkcollege, huiswerk en zelfstudie

Course Load

5 EC = 140 uur
Hoorcolleges: 10 × 2 = 20 uur
Werkcolleges: 10 × 2 = 20 uur
Toetsing: 2 + 3 = 5 uur
Zelfstudie: 70 uur (zonder huiswerk)
Huiswerk: 25 uur (online huiswerk via Sowiso & schriftelijk huiswerk)

Assessment Method

De facultatieve toets, halverwege de collegeserie, kan je eindcijfer enkel positief beïnvloeden: Je eindcijfer C = (t+2T)/3 wanneer je toetscijfer t hoger is dan je tentamencijfer T, of C = T wanneer het tentamencijfer hoger is. Door het maken van (online) huiswerkopgaven is ook een bonus te verdienen, die je cijfer enkel positief kan beïnvloeden. Beide regelingen gelden enkel voor het eerste tentamen, en ook enkel als je daar minimaal een 5.0 voor haalt, maar niet voor het hertentamen, waar je dus minimaal een 5.5 voor moet halen.


Blackboard is een belangrijke informatiebron bij de cursus Optica. Het bevat onder andere: een gedetailleerd overzicht van de collegestof, alle powerpoint slides van de hoorcolleges, alle opgaven van de werkcolleges, videofilmpjes over veel optica onderwerpen en oude tentamens. Blackboard UL

Reading List

University Physics, H.D. Young and R.A. Freedman, Addison Wesley 14th edition (ISBN-13: 978-1292100319)


Contactgegevens docent: Prof.dr.M.van Exter (Martin)