Module code: PHY3046

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 provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

ALLAM Jeremy (Physics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 90

Tutorial Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 27

Captured Content: 22

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


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


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


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. 


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 computational simulation and performance optimization

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Recognize the main optical and electrical properties of metals, dielectrics and semiconductors that determine their use in nanophotonics K
002 Identify similarities and differences between the propagation of light and electron waves in materials with reference to Maxwell's and Schrodinger’s equations KC
003 Describe how photon and electron confinement is achieved in nanostructured materials . K
004 Explain the origin of five principal classes of nanophotonic phenomena and structures K
005 1. photonic bandgaps in photonic crystals,
006 1. plasmons in metals, at metal-dielectric interfaces and in nano-particles,
007 1. quantum confinement and excitons in low-dimensional semiconductors,
008 1. polaritons in an optical cavity, and
009 1. negative refraction in metamaterials.
010 Analyse the influence of size, dimensionality, inhomogeneity, periodicity and anisotropy in these phenomena C
011 Recognise graphs of the dispersion relations associated with nanophotonic phenomena and identify the main features C
012 Evaluate the dispersion in specified examples of nanophotonic structures including use of appropriate approximations C
013 Examine the application of nanophotonics in devices for the manipulation of light KC
014 Perform computer simulations of a nanophotonic structure CP

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

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


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHY3046

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Physics with Astronomy 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 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

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 2021/2 academic year.