Skip to main content


PHY2038 : Optics & Principles of Electromagnetism

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Thomas Billam
  • Lecturer: Dr Jon Goss
  • Owning School: Mathematics, Statistics and Physics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To enhance student’s knowledge of fundamentals of optics and its applications in optical instrumentation and laser science and technology.

To enhance the students' knowledge of electromagnetic fields and wave behaviour and how this can be used to describe quasistatic fields, waves and introduce superconductivity.

Outline Of Syllabus

Geometric Optics
Fermat’s principle, reflection and refraction, paraxial approximation, lenses and mirrors, ray tracing, optical instruments, abberations

Physical Optics
Vector and scalar wave equations, nature of EM waves at optical frequencies, polarization, intensity, plane waves, Fourier transforms, Fraunhofer and Fresnel diffraction, Rayleigh criterion, resolving power of a grating, reflections from a dielectric and Brewster’s angle

Optical cavities and Lasers
Fabry-Perot interferometer, gain media, longitudinal cavity modes, Gaussian transverse modes, Gaussian beams and lenses, basics of Laser action.

Maxwell Equations
Basic vector algebra, definitions of Curl, Div and Grad, review quasi-static fields, Laplace and Poisson equations, continuity equation, derivation of Maxwell’s equations for static and time varying fields. Physical and engineering significance of Maxwell’s equations.

Electromagnetic Waves
Derivation of the wave equation, plane wave concepts, wavelength, attenuation and phase constants, propagation of waves in lossless and lossy media, polarisation, wave power (Poynting vector), interaction with dielectric and conducting media and wave reflection and refraction.

Introduction to Superconduction
A semi-quantitative introduction to the superconducting state; type-I and type-II superconducting materials; London equations; Josephson Junctions and SQUIDs

Relevant examples will be provided to reinforce key topics as appropriate.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture421:0042:00Lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture41:004:00Revision Lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion301:0030:00Completion of in course assessments
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops101:0010:00Problem-solving workshops
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1141:00114:00Preparation time for lectures, background reading, coursework review
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are used for the delivery of theory and explanation of methods, illustrated with examples, and for giving general feedback on marked work. Problem-solving workshops are used to allow practice of applying knowledge and skills from the lectures to problem-solving on more substantial problems.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1202A80N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Prob solv exercises1M10Problem-solving exercises: optics
Prob solv exercises2M10Problem-solving exercises: electromagnetism
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A substantial formal unseen examination is appropriate for the assessment of the material in this module. The coursework assignments allow the students to develop their problem solving techniques, to practise the methods learnt in the module, to assess their progress and to receive feedback; these assessments have a secondary formative purpose as well as their primary summative purpose.

Reading Lists