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PHYS 3003 Light and Matter


Unit Coordinator:

Dr Tim Freegarde





Second Year Physics Core Units preferred

Credit Points:



Core unit for all Physics with Photonics programmes
Optional unit for other programmes

A superposition of ground and excited state wavefunctions
shows a displacement of the electron cloud, corresponding
to the classical electron displacement and hence to the
polarization of the atom.
Click to see an animation.


The aim of this course is to provide an introduction to modern optical physics and to arm students with a basic knowledge of light-matter interactions, electro-optics and nonlinear optics. This will give them a fundamental base for understanding the techniques and technologies of photonics and experimental quantum optics, as well as drawing together and developing many more basic and beautiful aspects of physics.

Learning Outcomes

After studying this course students should have a basic knowledge and understanding of:

  • the polarization and vector properties of light and their analysis
  • elementary microscopic models of the light-matter interaction process
  • light propagation in isotropic, anisotropic and nonlinear media
  • crystal optics, metal optics, and polarizing devices
  • electro- and magneto-optical effects and devices
  • major phenomena of nonlinear optics such as harmonic generation, self-focusing, parametric effects, controlling light with light
  • controlling matter with light: optical tweezers, laser cooling
  • the many similarities and occasional differences between light and matter


  • The Maxwell and wave equations in media; forced oscillation and resonant optical response; the Lorentz dispersion theory; causality and the Kramers-Kronig relations
  • Light as a vector field; polarized and unpolarized light; Jones vectors, Stokes parameters and Mueller matrices; the energy, momentum and angular momentum of an electromagnetic wave
  • Controlling light with matter: plane waves in an anisotropic crystal; birefringence, optical activity and polarizing devices
  • Controlling light with electric and magnetic fields, the electro-optical Pockels and Kerr effects, the magneto-optical Faraday effect
  • Controlling light with light: nonlinear optical response of a forced molecular oscillator; basic nonlinear optical phenomena; harmonic generation and self-focussing
  • Controlling matter with light: the mechanical properties of light and the consequences of energy and momentum conservation; optical tweezers, Doppler cooling and the magneto-optical trap

Teaching and Learning Methods

The method of teaching is mainly by 30 lectures. Several problem sheets are handed which student do in their own time and some of them will be solved by the lecturer in the class.

Non-contact Hours

Six hours per week of independent study is expected of students.

Assessment Methods

Assessment is by written examination at the end of the course. The paper will have a compulsory section A with between 5 and 10 short questions covering the whole units and a section B where answers to 2 questions out of 4 will be required.

Recommended Books and Course Materials

  • D. Meschede - Optics, Light and Lasers, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim (2004)
  • Y. B. Band - Light and Matter, Wiley, Chichester (2006)
  • E. Hecht - Optics, 4th ed., Addison-Wesley, Harlow (2001)
  • I. S. Grant & W. R. Phillips - Electromagnetism, 2nd ed., Wiley, Chichester (1996)
  • E. Born & M. Wolf - Principles of Optics, 7th ed., Cambridge University Press (1999)
  • R. Boyd - Nonlinear Optics, 2nd ed., Academic Press (1994)
  • H. J. Metcalf & P. van der Straten - Laser Cooling and Trapping, Springer (1999)
  • J. Peatross & M. Ware - Physics of Light and Optics, on-line draft (2004)

    Accompanying course notes will be available for students.

    Other Course Information

    Skills Development

    Importance on a scale of 0 (low) to 5 (high):

    Insight & understanding


    Knowledge base


    Critical analysis


    Problem solving skills


    Communication skills


    Practical skills






University of Southampton

Lecture notes:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

Lecture slides:
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Qu Computing
Guest lecture

Problem sheets:

Jan 2004 / solns
Jan 2005 / solns
Jan 2006 / solns
Jan 2007 / solns

BBC: In Our Time
Feynman in NZ
Laser cooling
Quant computing
Deutsch paper
Peatross & Ware


School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 2093, Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 3910