4 ECTS credits
110 h study time

Offer 1 with catalog number 4017310DNR for all students in the 1st semester at a (D) Master - preliminary level.

1st semester
Enrollment based on exam contract
Grading method
Grading (scale from 0 to 20)
Can retake in second session
Taught in
Partnership Agreement
Under interuniversity agreement for degree program
Faculteit Ingenieurswetenschappen
Applied Physics and Photonics
Educational team
Hugo Thienpont
Francis Berghmans (course titular)
Roeland BAETS
Activities and contact hours
36 contact hours Lecture
Course Content

In this course you will be [1] introduced into the field of photonics by looking at its history, studying its applications and analyzing the impact of photonics technology on todays economy and society. This course will teach you about [2] the interaction of light with matter (i.e. the emission and absorption of light by atoms, dispersion, scattering & interference of light, and more generally propagation of light through dielectrics and light in metals), [3] the propagation of light (i.e. reflection, refraction, total internal reflection, evanescent waves, frustrated total internal reflection, Fermat's principle), [4] geometrical optics (i.e. lenses & lens fabrication), [5] lasers (i.e. Einstein's theory of light-matter interaction, essential elements of a laser, characteristics of laser light, lasertypes & parameters) and [6] photovoltaics and how to generate electricity from sunlight.

Course material
Digital course material (Required) : Photonics, H. Thienpont
Handbook (Recommended) : Optics, E. Hecht, 5de, Addison Wesley, 9781292096933, 2016
Digital course material (Required) : Powerpoint presentations used during the lectures, H. Thienpont and F. Berghmans
Additional info

The course consists only of lectures (HOC) in a blend online/interactive format. The course builds - for the largest part - on material as discussed in the book "Optics" by Eugene Hecht. A digital copy of the detailed course notes containing - for the largest part - excerpts from the above mentioned book, together with recordings of HOC-sessions, are made available to the students by ways of the CANVAS platform. This needs to be supplemented with additional information provided in the powerpoint slides used during the lectures. All the lecture slides are made available to the students by ways of the CANVAS platform as well. Students can opt for purchasing the book "Optics" by Eugene Hecht from any bookshop. They are encouraged to consult this book, which is available at Vrije Universiteit Brussel's library. 

In exceptional circumstances and should sanitary restrictions need to be enforced such that not all students can attend the lectures on campus, the lectures will be made available as pre-recorded sessions by ways of the CANVAS platform. Students will be able to consult these any time. Students will receive clear instructions through CANVAS about which material they should study in a given week. A weekly interactive questions and answers session will then be organized on-line using the BigBlueButton feature on the CANVAS platform.

Learning Outcomes

General competences

This course aims at introducing the basic concepts of optics and photonics.

The main goal is to provide the knowledge needed to follow the main courses of the master in photonics; namely microphotonics, optical communication systems, design of refractive and diffractive optical imaging systems and lasers.

The main learning outcome is as follows:

The student must be able to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the basic concepts of optics and photonics, that underpins photonic applications and systems, including,  scattering, reflection and refraction, absorption, light propagation through materials and optical fibers, light generation in lasers, light detection with photodiodes  etc.

In addition, the student must be able to show that:

  • he/she can master and apply advanced knowledge in the field of photonics to addess more complex problems;
  • he/she can specify, design and test complex photonic components and systems;
  • he/she understands and is able to apply the properties of the most important optical materials;
  • he/she is familiar with the most important application areas of photonic materials, components and systems;
  • he/she also understands non-optical aspects of photonic systems, in particular electronic, mechanical and thermal aspects;
  • he/she is able to select and apply the most adeqate models, methods and techniques given a particular photonic problem;
  • he/she can talk about the field of photonics, also in English;
  • he/she can interprete the historical evolution of photonics and its social relevance;
  • he/she can act in an ethical, professional and social way;
  • he/she has acquired enough knowledge and comprehension to control the results of complex calculations or make approximate estimates;
  • he/she pays attention to durability and sustainability;
  • he/she shows assertiveness, has a drive for innovation and a sense for the creation of added value.


The final grade is composed based on the following categories:
Oral Exam determines 100% of the final mark.

Within the Oral Exam category, the following assignments need to be completed:

  • Oral exam with a relative weight of 1 which comprises 100% of the final mark.

    Note: De mondelinge ondervraging bestaat uit 1 algemene hoofdvraag en 2 additionele vragen. De hoofdvraag gaat na of de student voldoende inzicht heeft in de basisprincipes van optica en fotonica. De 2 bijvragen gaan na of de student de basisprincipes kan relateren aan mogelijke praktische toepassingen.

Additional info regarding evaluation

The regular evaluation form is an oral exam with preparation on paper. The first part of the oral examination consists of answering one main question that is picked by the student from a series of index cards. The main question is to be answered in detail and accounts for 13 out 20 points. The student then receives a second question about a subject from another part of the course. This question can be answered more concisely and accounts for 7 out of 20 points. The total score for the two questions yields a final score on a total of 20 points.
In addition to demonstrating that she/he understands the subject matter and the physical principles, and that she/he is able to deliver structured answers, the student must also:
• know units;
• know orders of magnitude;
• know how to draw and discuss key figures/graphs;
• make mathematical derivations.

In exceptional circumstances and should sanitary restrictions need to be enforced, the exam will be organized in an on-line oral format using a pre-defined webconference tool, with small modifications to the examination process in terms of required extensiveness of the allowed duration for the answer to the main question and the manner in which this main question will be formulated. Precise instructions in this case will be provided by ways of the CANVAS platform.

Allowed unsatisfactory mark
The supplementary Teaching and Examination Regulations of your faculty stipulate whether an allowed unsatisfactory mark for this programme unit is permitted.

Academic context

This offer is part of the following study plans:
Master of Electronics and Information Technology Engineering: Standaard traject (only offered in Dutch)
Master of Photonics Engineering: On campus traject
Master of Photonics Engineering: Online/Digital traject
Master of Electrical Engineering: Standaard traject BRUFACE J
Master of Teaching in Science and Technology: ingenieurswetenschappen (120 ECTS, Etterbeek) (only offered in Dutch)