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Spie Press Book

Field Guide to Physical Optics
Author(s): Daniel G. Smith
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Book Description

This Field Guide provides a concise overview of physical optics for easy reference, with a focus on information applicable to the field of optical engineering. Within this Field Guide, you will find formulae and descriptions of electromagnetic wave phenomena that are fundamental to the wave theory of light.

Author Dan Smith has included tools central to describing polarization, interference, and diffraction. Emphasis is placed on scalar diffraction and imaging theory, which are essential in solving most practical optical engineering problems.

Book Details

Date Published: 24 April 2013
Pages: 130
ISBN: 9780819485489
Volume: FG17

Table of Contents
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Glossary of Terms and Acronyms
Electromagnetic Waves
Maxwell’s Equations and the Wave Equations
Principle of Linear Superpositionand Complex Notation
The Helmholtz Equation
Plane Wave
Spherical and Cylindrical Waves
Speed of Light
The Beer–Lambert Law
Increasing versus Decreasing Phase Convention
Linear Polarization
Right- and Left-Hand Circular Polarization
Elliptical Polarization
Elliptical Polarization Handedness
Poincaré Sphere
Jones Vectors
Jones Matrices and Eigenpolarizations
Jones Rotation and Reflection Matrices
Dichroism and Diattenuation
Polarizers and Malus’ Law
Optical Activity
Stokes Vectors and Degree of Polarization
Mueller Matrices
Mueller Matrices and Rotation
Poynting Vector, Irradiance, and Optical Admittance
Plane of Incidence
Stokes Relations
Airy Formulae and Airy Function
Airy Function and Finesse
Fresnel Equations
Coefficient of Reflection
Reflectance and Transmittance
Laws of Refraction and Reflection
Phase Difference between Parallel Reflections
Characteristic Matrix of Thin Films
Reflectance and Transmittance of Thin Films
Superposed Plane Waves
Interference of Two Plane Waves (Different Frequency)
Interference of Two Plane Waves (Same Frequency)
Phase Velocity and Group Velocity
Interference of Two Plane Waves (3D)
Fringe Visibility / Modulation / Contrast
Interference of Two Polarized Plane Waves
Grating Equation
Interference of Two Spherical Waves
Scalar Theory of Diffraction
Huygens’ and Huygens–Fresnel Principles
Fresnel Diffraction
On-Axis Irradiance behind a Circular Aperture
Fresnel Zone Plate
Integral Theorem of Helmholtz and Kirchhoff
Sommerfeld Radiation and Kirchhoff Boundary Conditions
Fresnel–Kirchhoff Diffraction Integral
Rayleigh–Sommerfeld Diffraction Integral
Boundary Conditions and Obliquity Factors
Fresnel Diffraction Formula
Fresnel Diffraction between Confocal Surfaces
Fraunhofer Diffraction Formula
Huygens’ Wavelet
Angular Spectrum of Plane Waves
Transfer Function of Free Space
Method of Stationary Phase
Talbot Images
Babinet’s Principle
Fresnel Diffraction by a Rectangular Aperture
Cornu Spiral
Propagation through a Lens
Airy Disk
Double-Telecentric Imaging System
Linear and Shift-Invariant Imaging System
Coherent and Incoherent Point Spread Function
PSF for Rectangular and Circular Apertures
Transfer Function
Coherent Transfer Function (CTF)
Incoherent Transfer Function and the Optical Transfer Function
Strehl Ratio
Properties of the OTF and MTF
CTF and OTF of a Circular Aperture
CTF and OTF of a Rectangular Aperture
Coherent and Incoherent Cutoff Frequency
Rayleigh Criterion
Gaussian Beams
Rotationally Symmetric Gaussian Beams
Gaussian Beam Size
Rayleigh Range and Sister Surfaces
Gouy Shift and Wavefront Curvature
ABCD Method for Gaussian Beams
Coherence Theory
Young’s Double Pinhole
Mutual Coherence Function
Spatial Coherence: Mutual Intensity
Van Cittert–Zernike Theorem
Temporal Coherence
Coherence Length
Coherence Length for Simple Spectra
Fabry–Pérot Interferometer
Fabry–Pérot Spectrometer
Special Functions and Fourier Transforms
Equation Summary


Physical optics is a broad subject that has been in vigorous and continuous development for more than a century. It can be thought of as encompassing all optics, except possibly ray optics, but it may also be regarded as a subset of physical phenomena described by electromagnetic optics.

This Field Guide is a practical overview of the subject area, with specific emphasis on information most useful in the field of optical engineering. Within this Field Guide, the reader will find formulae and descriptions of basic electromagnetic wave phenomena that are fundamental to a wave theory of light. Tools are provided for describing polarization. And, although vector diffraction theory and electromagnetic methods (e.g., FDTD and RCWA) are not treated here, emphasis is placed on scalar diffraction and imaging theory, which are essential in solving most practical optical engineering problems.

I owe thanks to the various professors who first taught me these subjects: Jack Kasher and Daniel Wilkins at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; and then later at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences: Arvind S. Marathay, Jack D. Gaskill, Roland V. Shack, James C. Wyant, and John E. Greivenkamp. I also owe thanks to Tom D. Milster, who graciously allowed me to review his soon-to-be published text and adopt portions of his notation.Thanks also go to Kerry McManus Eastwood for her extensive help in preparing this volume and to Eric P. Goodwin for his help in reviewing the material.

Finally, I dedicate this Field Guide to my wife, Jenny, who is always there to keep me coherent and in phase.

Daniel G. Smith
Nikon Research Corporation of America
January 2013

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