Course Information

18-712: Elements of Photonics for Communication Systems




The aim of this course is to provide students with a basic understanding of the elements of photonics, including the necessary primary devices that form the building blocks of modern optical communication systems. The photon is the fundamental unit particle of light, with frequencies in the range of several hundred Terahertz (~100 x 1012 Hz). It is a fact of the fundamental theorem of communication that information capacity increases directly with frequency. It is no wonder then that photonic communication systems have become the backbone of modern, ultra-fast and high capacity communication networks. The use of light in communication systems involves the generation, transmission, and detection of photons, along with the encoding (modulation) of signals of interest onto the light carrier wave, and the subsequent decoding (de-modulation) at the destination.

This course begins with an introduction to basic electromagnetic theory (in the frequency range that corresponds to light). The introduction includes Maxwell's equations in both free space and dielectric media. The scalar wave equation derived from the vector Maxwell equations is solved in free space as well as in dielectric media, taking into account the boundary conditions that affect the transmission and reflection of light at the dielectric interfaces. This background is then used in the discussion of the dielectric slab and the related fiber-optic waveguide that is used in the transmission of optical signals in short- and long-haul communication systems.

The course continues with a discussion of semiconductor light generators, with a particular focus on edge-emitting and surface-emitting lasers. Photon detectors—of the semiconductor variety—are then discussed. The course ends with a discussion of other important optical components such as modulators, filters, couplers, multiplexers and demultiplexers.

4 hrs. lec.

Prerequisites: 18-300 and 18-310 and (18-402 or 33-439) and senior or graduate standing.

Last Modified: 2016-11-13 5:03PM

Semesters offered:

  • Fall 2016
  • Fall 2013
  • Fall 2012
  • Fall 2011
  • Fall 2010
  • Fall 2009
  • Fall 2008
  • Fall 2007
  • Fall 2006
  • Fall 2005