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PH5192   Optical Imaging Concepts

Academic year(s): 2019-2020

Key information

SCOTCAT credits : 15

ECTS credits : 7

Level : SCQF Level 11

Semester: 1

Availability restrictions: This module is limited to students registered on the EngD in Applied Photonics and the MSc in Photonics and Optoelectronic Devices.

Planned timetable: 11.00 am Mon, Tue, Thu

This module aims to introduce the theory and applications of key imaging concepts that are in widespread use. The content includes on the underpinning side:- plane waves form Maxwell's equations, refractive index, polarisation, coherence, diffraction, Fourier optics, lenses and aberrations, optical instruments, point spread function. On the more system side the content includes material drawn from some of:-adaptive optics, multi-modal microscopies, super-resolution, optical coherence tomography, ghost and hyperspectral imaging and other contemporary imaging scenarios.

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact: 2.7 hours lectures (10 weeks), 1 hour tutorial (3 weeks)

Scheduled learning hours: 30

Guided independent study hours: 119

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews: Written Examination = 80%, Coursework = 20%

As defined by QAA
Written examinations : 80%
Practical examinations : 0%
Coursework: 20%

Re-assessment: Practical (Oral) Examination = 100%

Additional information from school

Aims & Objectives

The course will cover fundamental aspects of optical imaging systems and the optical principles underpinning these approaches. During this course we will

  • derive simple plane-wave solutions from Maxwell equations
  • provide macroscopic as well as microscopic models of optical media
  • introduce polarisation, Jones vectors and matrices, and practical ways to generate polarised light
  • derive wave interaction with dielectric plane surfaces from first principles and discuss important special cases
  • define optical coherence and relate it to spectral and spatial properties of the light source by way of the Wiener-Khintchine theorem
  • introduce and develop Kirchoff's theory of scalar diffraction and apply it to different diffraction configurations
  • discuss the geometric optics framework including both its uses and limitations
  • introduce imaging with multi-lens systems, leading to description of classical and modern microscopy techniques.
  • develop the Fourier optics framework and use it to discuss the fundamental limitations to imaging systems 

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, the students will have a comprehensive knowledge of the topics covered in the lectures and will be able to:

  • understand more complicated subjects in the field of optics related to a future research project.
  • use ray tracing and geometric optics to calculate the properties of an optical instrument
  • use Fourier optics and Fourier transforms to calculate the properties of an optical instrument
  • describe the polarization properties of light with different theoretical concepts and understand most polarization phenomena
  • understand the physics at interfaces of different refractive index; in particular for imaging purposes
  • calculate the resolving power of a device in order to resolve a spatial feature
  • solve diffraction problems in various geometries and obtain corresponding diffraction patterns.
  • calculate the point spread function of an optical imaging system
  • know the concepts of advanced imaging techniques, such as optical coherence tomography, ghost imaging, holography and multi-modal microscopy.


Review of Maxwell's equations, linear wave equation, plane waves, Poynting-vector. Physical origin of refractive index, dispersion model, Sellmeier equation. Polarisation: linear, circular, elliptical polarisation, Jones vectors and Jones matrices. Production of polarised light by various techniques, wave plates. Light at interfaces: Boundary conditions, Snell's law, Fresnel equations, Energy conservation at interfaces, Brewster's angle, total internal reflection, phase changes. Coherence: spatial vs. temporal coherence, correlation coefficient, Wiener Khintchine Theorem, Van Zittert-Zernicke Theorem, Hanbury Brown Twiss experiment. Diffraction: Huygens principle, Kirchhoff theory, Fraunhofer and Fresnel reflection, Babinet's principle, calculation of diffraction patterns. Geometric optics: reflecting and refracting interfaces, focal length, ray vectors and transform matrices. Optical aberrations: chromatic and monochromatic aberrations, spherical aberrations and Zernicke polynomials, adaptive optics. Optical instruments: telescopes, microscopes, field of view, field stop, and aperture stop. Fourier Optics: Fourier transform relation between near-field and far-field spatial profile, optical image processing, optical computing, the diffraction limit, point spread functions. Microscopy: bright field microscopy, dark-field microscopy, phase-contrast microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, wide field microscopy and confocal microscopy. Holography: holographic recordings and computer generated holograms, applications of holography. Super-resolution microscopy: near-field scanning microscopy, Stimulated emission microscopy, stochastic methods. Optical coherence tomography: principles of OCT, time-domain and frequency domain OCT. Ghost and hyperspectral imaging.

Additional information on continuous assessment etc.

Please note that the definitive comments on continuous assessment will be communicated within the module.  This section is intended to give an indication of the likely breakdown and timing of the continuous assessment.

Four tutorial sheets are set and expected to be answered by students during the semester.  These tutorial sheets are to be submitted as fully written out solutions and are marked and returned.  There are additionally four in-class tutorials in this module, which are not assessed and aim to solve problems on the day with support from the lecturer.  20% of the module mark comes from the assessed tutorial problems.

Recommended Books

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General Information

Please also read the general information in the School's honours handbook that is available via



Module coordinator: Dr F E W Koenig
Module teaching staff: Dr F Koenig, Dr S Schulz