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

FLORESCU Marian (Maths & Phys)

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: 109

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 11

Laboratory Hours: 8

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The three main topics (nanostructures in dielectrics, semiconductors and metals) combine new phenomena (e.g. quasiparticles such as plasmon-polaritons, negative refraction, etc), analytical approaches to propagation of light and electron waves, and computational simulations of realistic structures. Applications of nanophotonic structures are considered with critical evaluation of their advantages, and impact of manufacturability and cost on their adoption.

Indicative content includes:

A. Introduction and Review
Introduction: What is photonics? What is nanotechnology? Description of module: organisation, teaching methods, assessment. A look ahead: nanophotonics and the quantum playground.
Brief review of physics of photons and electrons: Wave equations: propagation, dispersion, velocities, impedance. Propagation at interfaces and barriers. Confinement, waveguides and cavities. Materials for nanostructures: dielectrics, metals, and semiconductors. Maxwell’s equations and EM wave equation in dielectrics and metals. Electron waves and Schrödinger equation in semiconductors. Semi-classical interaction of light and atoms; light emission and lasers.

B.  Dielectric Nanostructures: confinement of light and photonic crystals

Waves in periodic media: EM waves in periodic media: Floquet (Bloch) theorem and band structure, analytical solution of wave equation. Overview of computational methods. Transfer Matrix approach. Optical bandgaps: Bragg reflection and coherence conditions. Computational simulation of Distributed Bragg Reflectors. Applications: VCSEL lasers.

Photonic crystals: Photonic crystals and photonic bandgaps (PBG) in periodic, quasiperiodic and disordered dielectric structures. Piecewise solution in 1D periodic structure: derivation and properties of dispersion relation. Comparison to Kronig-Penney. 2D and 3D PBGs: polarisation and dimensionality. ‘Complete’ photonic bandgaps. Natural and man-made photonic crystals; from butterfly wings to “holey fibres”. Defects, cavities and photonic crystal resonators. PBGs for functional photonic components. Computational simulation of 1D photonic crystal. Application: ‘slow light’.

C.  Semiconductor nanostructures: confinement and propagation of electron waves.

Low-dimensional semiconductors: Brief review of semiconductor properties: bands and bandgaps. Semiconductor heterostructures: potential barriers, quantum confinement and tunnelling. Quantum wells and superlattices. Low-dimensional semiconductors: density of states, energy levels, wavefunctions and optical transitions in quantum wells, quantum wires and quantum dots. Optical transitions, parity, and selection rules. Computational simulation of layered semiconductor nanostructures. Application: quantum well lasers and/or quantum confined Stark effect.

Quantum dots, excitons, and  polaritons: Quantum dots as ‘artificial atoms’. Excitons in low dimensional structures. Strong and weak confinement. Introduction to exciton-polaritons. Quantum dot microcavities. Applications in quantum optics.

D: Metallic nanostructures:. plasmonics and metamaterials

Plasmonics: Light propagation in metals: plasmon polaritons; bulk, surface and nanostructure plasmons. Light propagation at metal-dielectric interface: derivation and properties of dispersion relation. Light coupling and extraordinary transmission. Application: surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. Plasmons in nanoparticles: resonant light scattering and electric field enhancement. Plasmon propagation and effects of loss. Spherical, ellipsoidal and core-shell particles. Plasmonic waveguides and cavities. Computational simulation of light scattering and fields in metal nanoparticles. Applications: from solar cells to cancer therapy.

Metamaterials and negative refraction: Conditions for negative refraction. Phase and group velocities. Consequences for refraction and Doppler shift. Effect of losses/ Materials and structures for negative refraction. Scaling of operation frequency with size. Application, selected from: superlens, invisibility cloak, trapped light.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Dielectric nanostructures 30
Coursework Semiconductor nanostructures 35
Coursework Metal nanostructures 35

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

Students will be assessed on:

  1. technical knowledge and understanding of core principles of nanophotonics,

  2. awareness of the applications of nanophotonics,

  3. use of computational simulations* to explore physical behaviours, applications and device manufacturability, and

  4. skills in the design of systematic investigations and technical reporting.

* Suitable MATLAB computer programmes are provided: there is no requirement for, or assessment of, programming skill. The programmes have been used within this and related modules for over 10 years and are well proven.

The computational simulations provide a “learn by doing” component to the module, and the assessment strategy will encourage crossover between conceptional knowledge gained from the taught material and the practical understanding gained from numerical simulations. The module is assessed by three units of coursework each associated with one of the three main topics of the module. Deadlines are aligned with the content delivery and distributed throughout the semester. Each unit combines set (exam-like) questions with a numerical investigation. The design and reporting of a small but systematic investigation with clear objective and conclusions is an important component; students report that this is helpful preparation for their final year project assessment.  
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. Written feedback will be provided on an initial (formative only) set of coursework as well as the three (summative) assessed coursework units.


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 Analyse the influence of size, dimensionality, inhomogeneity, periodicity and anisotropy in these phenomena C
006 Recognise graphs of the dispersion relations associated with nanophotonic phenomena and identify the main features C
007 Evaluate the dispersion in specified examples of nanophotonic structures including use of appropriate approximations C
008 Examine the application of nanophotonics in devices for the manipulation of light KC
009 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:

  1. achieve technical knowledge of core nanophotonic principles,

  2. provide an experience of “learning by doing” through systematic numerical investigation,

  3. facilitate cross-fertilisation between conceptional understanding gained from the taught material and practical understanding gained from numerical simulations,

  4. develop research skills, especially the design of systematic investigations, establishing the significance of research outcomes, and concise technical reporting, and

  5.  incorporate a synoptic element that integrates understanding from earlier compulsory modules on electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and solid-state physics, and refreshes key physical concepts in preparation for employment or postgraduate studies.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  1. traditional delivery of core content through weekly in-person lectures and/or online learning resources,

  2. practice in problem-solving through weekly tutorials,

  3. computational classes in support of the numerical investigations, and

  4. office hours and online support.


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 Quantum Computing BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory 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 2025/6 academic year.