ECE 459

Fundamentals of Optics for Electrical Engineers
Catalog Data: 

ECE 459 - Fundamentals of Optics for Electrical Engineers (3 units)

Description: Introduction to diffraction and 2-D Fourier optics, geometrical optics, paraxial systems, third order aberrations, Gaussian beam propagation, optical resonators, polarization, temporal and spatial coherence, optical materials and nonlinear effects, electro-optic modulators. Applications to holography, optical data storage, optical processing, neural nets and associative memory optical interconnects will be discussed.

Grading: Regular grades are awarded for this course: A B C D E

May be convened with ECE 559

ECE 381A
  • Guenther, B.D. Modern Optics. 1st ed. Wiley, 1990.
  • Goodman, Joseph W. Introduction to Fourier Optics. 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill, 1996.
Course Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Understand the basic concepts of physical and geometrical optics as they relate to engineering applications
  2. Layout designs for basic optical systems
  3. Understand the properties of optical waveguides and fibers
  4. Understand the basic concepts of image analysis
Course Topics: 

Electromagnetic wave propagation

  • Complex description of EM fields
  • Plane waves: propagation constant and Poynting vector
  • Refractive index and dielectric constants
  • Laws of reflection and refraction
  • Velocity of light in optical materials
  • Field polarization
  • Plane of incidence

Fresnel reflection coefficients

  • Amplitude and phase of reflected fields from low-high and high-low index changes
  • Perpendicular and parallel polarization reflection
  • Coefficients
  • Intensity reflection and transmission


  • Basic radiometric terms and quantities
  • Black body radiation

Basic optical components and systems

  • Lenses and mirrors
  • Principal points, focal points, nodal points
  • Real and imaginary images
  • Afocal systems
  • Telescope and microscope

Ray propagation using matrix and ray trace approaches

  • Matrix descriptions of optical components and systems
  • Cascading optical components
  • Analysis of a telescope and microscope
  • Demonstration of Zemax

Aberrations of basic optical systems

  • Spherical, coma, astigmatism, field curvature, distortion
  • Basic optical system designs that minimize aberrations

Diffraction theory

  • Huygens principle and interaction with light at an aperture boundary
  • Fresnel (near) and Fraunhoffer (far) field descriptions
  • Rayleigh Sommerfeld diffraction formula
  • Diffraction from simple apertures
  • 4-f optical system, lab demonstration

Gaussian beam propagation

  • Beam parameters
  • Beam diameter and radius of curvature
  • Beam transfer through optical components
  • Power in Gaussian beams

Coherence theory and Interference

  • Temporal and spatial coherence
  • Basic interferometer designs and measurements

Material anisotropy and field polarization

  • Field description of polarized light
  • Polarization components
  • Lab example

Grating diffraction and dispersion

  • Phase matching
  • Ruled gratings and holographic gratings
  • Blazed gratings
  • Volume holograms
  • Lab demonstration


  • Basic properties of field propagation in waveguides
  • Planar waveguides
  • Fiber optic waveguides

Optical Systems

  • Fiber-optic systems
  • Holographic displays
Class/Laboratory Schedule: 

Three 50-minute lectures per week

Relationship to Student Outcomes: 

ECE 459 contributes directly to the following specific electrical and computer engineering student outcomes of the ECE department:

  • Ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science and engineering (High)
  • Ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data (low)
  • Ability to design a system, component or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints, such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability and sustainability (high)
  • Ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems (high)
  • Knowledge of contemporary issues (low)
  • Ability to use the techniques, skills and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice (high)
Prepared by: 
Raymond Kostuk
Prepared Date: 

University of Arizona College of Engineering