6.637 | Spring 2003 | Graduate

Optical Signals, Devices, and Systems


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


This subject covers the fundamentals of optical signals and modern optical devices and systems from a practical point of view. Its goal is to help the student develop a thorough understanding of the underlying physical principles such that device and system design and performance can be predicted, analyzed, and understood.

Most optical systems involve the use of one or more of the following: sources (e.g., lasers and light-emitting diodes), light modulation components (e.g., liquid-crystal light modulators), transmission media (e.g., free space or fibers), photodetectors (e.g., photodiodes, photomultiplier tubes), information storage devices (e.g., optical disk), processing systems (e.g., imaging and spatial filtering systems) and displays (LCOS microdisplays). These are the topics covered by this course.

Textbooks and Reading Materials

Some of the topics that we will cover are still areas of active research and are not yet treated in textbooks. Consequently, a combination of class notes and lecture slides will be provided on each topic. However, several of the basic concepts are covered in the following textbooks:

Goodman, J. W. Fourier Optics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1996. ISBN: 0070242542.

Yariv, A. Optical Electronics in Modern Communications. 5th ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN: 0195106261.

Saleh, B., and M. Teich. Fundamentals of Photonics. New York, NY: Wiley, 1991. ISBN: 0471839655.

Hecht, E. Optics. 4th ed. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 2001. ISBN: 0805385665.

Portions of the material we will cover can also be found scattered throughout a number of journals and conference proceedings that include:

Journal of the Optical Society of America.

Applied Optics.

Optics Letters.

Applied Physics Letters.

Optics Communications.

Optical Engineering.

Proceedings of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE).

Occasionally, the student will be expected to read and apply material covered in articles selected from these journals.


One homework problem set will be handed out almost every week and will be due one week later. Points will be deducted for homework handed in late. Homework will not be accepted after the solutions have been handed out.

Research Project

One of the homework assignments will be a two-week mid-term research project for which the student will prepare a research paper (20 page limit) and make a conference-style 15-minute in-class presentation. Areas that may be considered for research projects include:

  • Lasers for next-generation fiber-optic systems
  • WDM and DWDM challenges
  • Microdisplay technologies
  • Flat panel display technologies
  • Real-time holography
  • Electronic imaging systems
  • 2-D and 3-D optical storage technologies
  • Photon-counting with avalanche photodiodes
  • Optoelectronic networks and processors
  • Optical neural networks
  • Adaptive optical systems
  • Optically-controlled phased array radar
  • Optical inference engines
  • Fluid velocimeters
  • Coherence tomography
  • Recent Advances in Microscopy

Students may work alone or in a team of two on the research project. The presentation must include a discussion of the relevance or the potential impact of the technology on society. The presentations will be graded on:

  1. The clarity of the presentation [3 points],
  2. The substance (meat) of the material presented [5 points], and
  3. The creativity/innovation in showing or speculating on the impact or application (present or future) of the technology [2 points].

The accompanying written report is worth 20 points.


There will be two 1.5 hour in-class quizzes, given on the 14th and the 23rd day.

Grading Policy

Homework will account for 40 % of the final grade, the research project 30 % and the quizzes 30 % (15% each).