PHY475: Optical Properties of Solids

Prof. A.M. Fox

Autumn Semester, 20 lectures, 10 credits

This fourth year option covers the optical properties of metals, semiconductors and insulators following the treatment given in my textbook of the same name.

Course description

The course covers the optical physics of solid state materials. It begins with the classical description of optical propagation and reflectivity. It then covers the treatment of absorption and luminescence by quantum theory, and the modifications caused by excitonic effects. The phenomena are illustrated by discussing the optical properties of insulators, semiconductors, and metals. The infrared properties of ionic systems are discussed, and the course concludes with a brief introduction to nonlinear crystals.

The aims of the course are as follows:

  1. to understand the classical theory of light propagation in solid state materials;
  2. to understand the quantum theory of absorption and emission in solids;
  3. to appreciate the importance of excitonic effects in solids;
  4. to understand the origin of nonlinear optical effects in crystals.

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Lecture schedule

1 - 2Introduction, the complex refractive index
3 - 6Lorentz oscillators, dispersion, birefringence
7 - 10Interband absorption, excitons
11 - 12Luminescence
13 - 14Quantum confined structures
15 - 16Metals, doped semiconductors
17 - 18Phonon absorption and reflectivity
19 - 20Nonlinear optics

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Lecture notes

The lecture notes are given here in pdf format.

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Course assessment


The examination will contain 5 questions. Candidates are expected to answer any three questions.

Homework will be posted on MOLE.

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Past exam papers

Past exam papers may be downloaded from here.

Numerical answers for recent papers may be downloaded from here.

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Recommended books

The course closely follows my textbook of the same name published by Oxford University Press. See the OUP website for further information about the book.

You may also find the following older texts useful:

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