PHYS 4P62 - Modern Wave Optics: Optical Tweezers to Atom Clouds
Instructor: Ole Steuernagel
  • The materials on this web site are for the previous offering of this course, in 2013-2014, and are left here for information purposes only. The course will be offered again starting in 2015-2016 academic year, and this web page will be updated in time. In the meantime, take a look at this message from the instructor, Prof.Steuernagel.
  • Schedule: Please note that the course scheduling is unusual:
    • one-hour tutorial every week, conducted in B209 via an audio/video link;
    • three periods of intensive lectures, three-to-four hours per day.
  • Grades: In this course you will be given 9 take-home assignments. In total they account for 60% of the course mark. If you hand in your work too late it will not count, the late penalty is 100%.

    Instead of the final exam, on the last day you will also give a presentation to the class. This counts for 40% of the course mark. Here are some final presentations from the 2013-2014 class, for inspiration.


With the advent of spatial light modulators, the field of wave optics has never been more exciting. Digital spatial light modulators allow us to tailor light beams in new ways, such as video projection using Digital Light Processing technology.

Applications in science harness the force of light to manipulate microparticles. These include tweezers, bright light spots that allow for the movement and control of tiny particles, even organelles within living cells. Superpositions of plane wave laser light beams can form artificial crystals of light which are widely used in atomic physics.

Other tricks with light are possible: evanescent waves form mirrors that can levitate atoms; atomic funnels and bottles can be realized through superpositions of fundamental laser modes synthesized with spatial light modulators; crossed beam configurations allow for wide atom beam lenses; and beams with orbital angular momentum can form bright and dark helices of light.

After a brief introduction of wave optics, the physics of optical forces and potentials will be introduced. Many examples and applications from contemporary research will be presented, and analyzed by the students. This course makes extensive use of Maple programs for 'hands-on' modeling throughout. Some prior knowledge of Maple is recommended.