PHYC/ECE 464: Laser Physics I

Prof. F. Elohim Becerra
Office: P&A 19
Phone: 505 277-2673

Teaching Assistant
Amir Khabbazi Oskouei
Office: P&A

Description of the class

This course provides an introduction to the physics of lasers and some applications. It covers fundamental properties of light and its behavior in the presence of matter, the analysis of resonant cavities and light oscillation and amplification, and the physics of lasers and their properties. The course will address topics in fundamentals of electromagnetic theory, propagation of light, coherence, optical resonators, light-matter interactions, atomic radiation and laser excitation.

Students in this course will learn the fundamental properties of light-matter interactions and light propagation, and will apply the mathematical description of these properties to examine the behavior of different kinds of lasers.

Pre-requisites: E&M, Undergraduate Physics, Modern Physics, Knowledge of Differential Equations, Linear & Complex Algebra, Matrix representations, Optics.


Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30-10:45, P&A Room 184.


Textbook for the class:
Laser Electronics (3rd Edition) by Joseph T. Verdeyen. The course will cover Chapters 1-11, although we will not cover all the material in some chapters.

Additional resources
Lasers: Anthony E. Siegman.
Introduction to Optics (3rd Edition): Frank L. Pedrotti Leno M. Pedrotti Leno S. Pedrotti.
Fundamentals of Photonics , 2nd Edition: E. A. Saleh, Malvin Carl Teich.
Optics, 4th Edition: E. Hecht.

Homework Assignments

There will be regular assignments of problem sets taken from the textbook by E. Verdeyen, about one set per week, which may also contain additional exercises.
The assignments will be given throughout the semester and will be posted in the Tentative Schedule about one week before they are due. Homeworks must be turned in to the TA's mailbox before 5:00 pm on the due date.

Office hours

Office hours: Monday 9-11 am. You may also arrange a meeting for another time via email.
TA office hours: Tuesdays 2-3 pm in the P&A lobby. You may also arrange a meeting for another time via email.


The final grade will be based on the homework assignments, two midterm exams and a final exam. The contribution to the final grade is as follows:

  1. Homework: 20%
  2. Midterm exams: 25% each
  3. Final: 30%

Exam Dates (subject to change): Midterms, September 24 and November 5.

The Final Exam is comprehensive and is scheduled for Tuesday, December 8, 7:30-9:30 am.


Syllabus Topics

The course will be based on the textbook by Joseph T. Verdeyen. It will cover several topics in each chapter, however, not all of them. Below is a tentative list of topics that will be covered. You can find the calendar for the course in the Tentative Schedule.

  1. Introduction
    - Historical overview
  2. Review of Electromagnetic Theory (Ch 1)
    - Maxwell's equations; wave equations; propagation in dielectrics; boundary conditions
  3. Ray Tracing in an Optical System (Ch 2)
    - ABCD Matrix method and applications
  4. Gaussian Beams (Ch 3)
    - TEM waves; high-order modes
  5. Optical Cavities (Ch 5 & 6)
    - Gaussian beams in stable resonators; resonant optical cavities; finesse and photon lifetime
  6. Atomic Radiation (Ch 7)
    - Black body radiation; Einstein coefficients; lineshape; light-matter interaction; line broadening
  7. Laser Oscillation (Ch 8)
    - Laser oscillation and amplification; gain saturation, amplified spontaneous emission
  8. General Characteristics of Lasers (Ch 9)
    - CW lasers; laser dynamics; Q-switching; mode locking
  9. Laser Systems (Ch 10 &11)
    - Three- and four-level lasers; Ruby lasers; rare earth laser-amplifiers; gas-discharge lasers; free-electron lasers; semiconductor lasers
  10. Topics in Laser Applications
    - If time allows, we will discuss some special topics such as laser cooling, coherence and quantum optics

Additional resources


Class overview: Lecture 1

Lasers: Anthony E. Siegman .
Introduction to Optics (3rd Edition): Frank L. Pedrotti Leno M. Pedrotti Leno S. Pedrotti.
Fundamentals of Photonics , 2nd Edition: E. A. Saleh, Malvin Carl Teich.
Optics, 4th Edition: E. Hecht.

Tentative Schedule

Topic Date Subject Verdeyen Reading Homework HW Due Solutions
Introduction 08/18 (T) Historical Overview; Lasers        
Review of E&M 08/20 (R) Maxwell's Eqns. and waves in dielectrics Ch 1 HW1 (R) Aug 27 HW1Sol
  08/25 (T) Boundary conditions; coherent radiation Ch 1      
Ray Tracing 08/27 (R) ABCD Matrix methods Ch 2      
  09/01 (T) Cavities and lenses Ch 2 HW2 (T) Sep 8 HW2Sol
  09/03 (R) Applications of ray tracing Ch 2      
Gaussian Beams 09/08 (T) Wave equation with cylindrical symmetry Ch 3 HW3 (T) Sep 15 HW3Sol
  09/10 (R) Properties of Gaussian beams Ch 3      
  09/15 (T) ABCD matrix for Gaussian beams Ch 3 HW4 (T) Sep 22 HW4Sol
Optical Cavities 09/17 (R) Sable Resonator and ABCD method for cavities Ch 5      
  09/22 (T) Resonant Optical Cavities Ch 6      
  09/24 (R) Midterm 1        
  09/29 (T) Q parameter and Lifetime for cavities Ch 6 HW5 (T) Oct 6 HW5Sol
Atomic Radiation 10/01 (R) Light matter interaction; classical atom Ch13      
  10/06 (T) Black body radiation and Einstein coefficients Ch 7 HW6 (T) Oct 13 HW6Sol
  10/08 (R) Fall break Ch 7      
  10/13 (T) Lineshape and aplification Ch 7 HW7 (T) Oct 20 HW7Sol
  10/15 (R) Broadening processes Ch 7      
Laser Oscillation 10/20 (T) General conditions for oscillation Ch 8 HW8 (T) Oct 27 HW8Sol
  10/22 (R) Laser rate equations Ch 8      
  10/27 (T) Saturated gain and saturated amplifier Ch 8 HW9 (T) Nov 3 HW9Sol
  10/29 (R) Doppler-broadened saturated gain Ch 8      
  11/03 (T) Laser linewidth and output power Ch 8      
  11/05 (R) Midterm 2 Ch 5-8     MT2Sol
Laser Properties 11/10 (T) 3- and 4-level systems. CW ring laser Ch 9 HW10 (T) Nov 17 HW10Sol
  11/12 (R) Optimal coupling. Laser dynamics Ch 9      
  11/17 (T)


Ch 9 HW11 (T) Nov 24 HW11Sol
  11/19 (R) Mode Locking Ch 9      
  11/24 (T) " Ch 9 HW12 (T) Dec 01 HW12Sol
  11/26 (R) Thanks giving        
  11/17 (T)          
  11/19 (R) Lab tours