Module code: PHY3046

Module provider


Module Leader

ALLAM J Prof (Physics)

Number of Credits


ECT Credits



FHEQ Level 6

JACs code


Module cap (Maximum number of students)


Module Availability

Semester 2

Overall student workload

Independent Study Hours: 117

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 15

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module overview

The module addresses the advanced physics and technology of photonic nanostructures, where photons and/or electrons are spatially confined to dimensions comparable to or smaller than their wavelength. The propagation of the light and its interaction with matter are determined by factors such as length scales, periodicity, and dimensionality, and lead to phenomena not observed in nature. This is a rapidly developing field where fundamental science and technological advance hand-in-hand, and the module aims to demonstrate how new science drives new technologies that have a significant impact on society, for example through energy production, communications, and healthcare.

Module aims

provide students with an overview of photonics and nanotechnology, sufficient to enter technical employment or pursue further research in these fields.

expose students to examples of latest developments in a fast-moving field.

provide practice in the application of known physical concepts and mathematical techniques to new situations.

provide an experience of technical design for a specified application.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
Recognize the main optical and electrical properties of metals, dielectrics and semiconductors that determine their use in nanophotonics K
Identify similarities and differences between the propagation of light and electron waves in materials with reference to Maxwell's and Schrodinger’s equations KC
Describe how photon and electron confinement is achieved in nanostructured materials . K
Explain the origin of five principal classes of nanophotonic phenomena and structures K
1. photonic bandgaps in photonic crystals,
1. plasmons in metals, at metal-dielectric interfaces and in nano-particles,
1. quantum confinement and excitons in low-dimensional semiconductors,
1. polaritons in an optical cavity, and
1. negative refraction in metamaterials.
Analyse the influence of size, dimensionality, inhomogeneity, periodicity and anisotropy in these phenomena C
Recognise graphs of the dispersion relations associated with nanophotonic phenomena and identify the main features C
Evaluate the dispersion in specified examples of nanophotonic structures including use of appropriate approximations C
Examine the application of nanophotonics in devices for the manipulation of light KC
Design a nanophotonic structure for a selected application CP
Work in a small group towards a common design goal PT
Present applications outcomes in a co-authored written report and oral presentation PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Module content

Indicative content includes:

A. Introduction and Review

1. Introduction

What is photonics? What is nanotechnology?

Description of module: organisation, teaching methods, assessment

A look ahead: nanophotonics and the quantum playground


2. Brief review of physics of photons and electrons

These review lectures briefly summarize the minimum background in Electromagnetism (EM) and Quantum Mechanics (QM) required for this module.  They also introduce concepts, methodology and nomenclature to be followed in the module.

Wave equations: propagation, dispersion, velocities, impedance

Interfaces, barriers and tunneling

Confinement: total internal reflection, standing waves, waveguides and resonant cavities

Materials: dielectrics, metals, and semiconductors

EM waves: Maxwell’s equations and EM wave equation, in dielectrics and metals

Electron waves and Schrödinger equation

Semi-classical interaction of light and atoms

Light emission and lasers


3. Introduction to optical resonators and microcavities

Light emission and lasers

Losses and Quality (Q) factor of a resonator
Finesse, free-spectral range, and mode volume
Fabry-Perot resonators
'Whispering gallery' micro cavities (disks, rings, spheres, tori)


4. Waves in periodic media

Electromagnetic waves in periodic media: Floquet (Bloch) theorem and band structure
Analytical solution of wave equation in periodic medium

Distributed Bragg Reflectors, band gaps and mini-bands

Overview of computational methods: Fourier methods, Transfer Matrix, FDTD

Electron waves in semiconductors, heterostructures and superlattices


B.  Light in Nanostructures

5. Photonic crystals

Photonics crystals and photonic bandgaps (PBG) in periodic, quasiperiodic and disordered dielectric structures

Dispersion of 1D photonic crystal

Natural and man-made photonic crystals; from butterfly wings to “holey fibres”

2D and 3D PBGs

Defects, cavities and photonic crystal resonators

PBGs for functional photonic components

Dispersion control and ‘slow light’


6. Meta materials and negative refraction

Conditions for negative refraction

Consequences for refraction and Doppler shift

Materials and structures for negative refraction

Scaling of operation frequency with size

Meta materials and negative refraction

An application (selected from: superlens, invisibility cloak, trapped light)


7. Plasmonics

Bulk and surface plasmons: derivation of dispersion relation

Plasmons in nanoparticles: resonance and field enhancement

Plasmonic waveguides and cavities

Applications: from solar cells to cancer therapy 


C.  Electrons in Nanostructures

8. Low-dimensional semiconductors

Review of density of states and dimensionality

Excitons in low dimensions

Quantum dots as ‘artificial atoms’

Introduction to exciton-polaritons and quantum optics


D. Applications of Nanophotonics


9. Survey of Applications

Critical evaluation of advantages from use of nanophotonic structures

Impact of manufacturability, tolerances and cost on their adoption


10. Computional simulation of nanophotonic structure or device

use of provided MATLAB simulations to understand behaviour and optimise performance


Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

deliver core material in a familiar format of traditional lectures, supported by occcasional tutorials and students’ reading;

incorporate a synoptic element: integrating understanding gained in compulsory modules on electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and solid-state physics, and refreshing some key physical concepts in preparation for employment or further studies after graduation;


The learning and teaching methods include:

3 hours lectures / tutorials per week, including

3 hours introductory sessions to computational simulations


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

(1) technical knowledge and understanding of the core principles of nanophotonics, and


(2) the application to simple nanophotonic devices and systems, and


(3) skills in group working and technical reporting.


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

final exam on core principles of nanophotonics (1.5 hours)

course work on MATLAB simulations (3 sets of exercises on photonic crystals, quantum wells and superlattice, and plasmonic nanoparticles)


Formative assessment and feedback

Problem sheets on the material delivered in lectures will be available, with follow-up tutorials, which allow the students to test their understanding of course material.  Model answers and verbal feedback are provided to allow the students to assess their progress. The coursework will be preceded by 3 introductory sessions which will include preliminary exercises on which feedback will be given. 


Reading list


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Physics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Quantum Technologies BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Astronomy BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Liberal Arts and Sciences BA (Hons)/BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2017/8 academic year.