PHTN1300:Principles of Light Sources and Lasers
(2017 Fall)

Course Description

This course is dedicated to the fundamental operating principles of lasers including the quantum processes involved (with basic rate equations), the concept of laser gain and loss, excitation (pump) mechanisms, and optical resonators. Emphasis will be placed on formulation and use of the threshold gain equation, including situations with intra-cavity losses. An intensive laboratory component allows students to explore course material in a practical hands-on manner. This course has been updated to the new "Photonics 2.0" curriculum - a fundamental understanding of quantum mechanics is required as a prerequisite.


Prerequisites for this course include PHYS1215 Light and Spectroscopy and MATH1231 Mathematics II. Both are required for entry to this course.

This course is a prerequisite for PHTN1400 and PHTN1432. Failure to pass either the theory or lab/practical portion of this course will result in ineligibility to progress to these prerequisite courses in the winter term.

Evaluation ...

Three term tests, totalling 50%, as follows ...

These midterm tests primarily evaluate fundamental concepts of light emission and lasers. (e.g. expect questions of the nature "solve for xxxx given parameters yyyy"). Questions pertaining to knowledge gained during lab assignments will also be incorporated into the tests (e.g. calculating wavelengths using a spectroscope, calculating energies of levels and transitions, etc).

Test #1 in class on Wednesday 2017/10/11 (Moved up due to possible strike)
Fifty minutes, in class, worth 12.5%. Covering some review material (atomic emission, spectroscopy, Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of FLL) as well as semiconductors and thermal energy (e.g. junction temperature and bandgap/peak wavelength calculations from lab 1), and basic laser concepts of gain and loss (including formulating a threshold gain equation and basic numerical solutions)
Review held in class prior to the test
Test #2 in class on Wednesday 2017/12/13
One Hour, in class, worth 12.5%. Covering semiconductor lasers, two-slope threshold analysis method (from lab 2), characteristic temperature calculations and usage (from lab #2) and especially the gain threshold equation (from lab 3, Chapter 4 of FLL, and Chapter 2 of LM both of which are required reading) and application to various laser configurations including ones with intra-cavity losses.
Review held in class prior to the test
Test #3 in class on Wednesday 2018/01/10
Two hours, in class, worth 25%. Covering applications of theory to real-world problems involving lasers (primarily using gain/loss concepts to develop basic models and predict operating parameters such as gain and output power)
Do not expect questions testing 'pure theory' such as the first two tests, rather expect concepts such as blackbody radiation to be applied to a practical problem such as determination of required laser gain. It is not an "all encompassing" final exam (there is no "traditional" all-encompassing final exam in this course during exam period) but rather a demonstration of application of learned theory.
Reviews will be held in class during the week prior to the test, including a look at last year's test.

Labs and assignments combined for a total of 50%

Course Policies ...

Course policies follow the Standardized Policies and Procedures for CEE (dated January 2011). In summary:

Complete course policies can be found in the Teaching and Learning Plan (T&LP) document found on Blackboard.


There are two textbooks in this course. These same texts will be used next term in PHTN1400 and in the third year in PHTN1500 (i.e. you will not have to purchase another text for those two courses).

Fundamentals of Light Sources and Lasers by Csele, 2004, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-471-47660-9

Chapters 1 to 4 and parts of chapter 5, 6, and 9 are covered in this course. Chapters 1 through 3 outline incoherent light sources and basic quantum mechanics while chapter 4 introduces fundamental concepts of lasers. The rest of the text is covered in the next course.

ERRATA: In Fundamentals, Snell's law (equation 4.9.3 and in example 4.9.2) has the index of refraction values reversed. Also, in example 4.9.2 an index of refraction of 1.44 was assumed.

Laser Modeling: A Numerical Approach with Algebra and Calculus by Csele, 2014, CRC Press, ISBN 9781466582507

Chapters 1 to 3 are covered in this course. Of special interest is chapter 2 which outlines the formulation of the gain threshold equation in great detail and chapter 3 which presents gain saturation and application to modeling a basic laser with respect to output power and other key parameters. Other parts of the text will be used extensively in subsequent terms.

ERRATA: In Laser Modeling, in unity-gain equations (2.1), (2.6), and (2.8) the correct terms are egx not e-gx. Gain is always a positive quantity, attenuation is negative. Also, in table 8.1 (pp.222), an ULL lifetime of 29.9ns should be used for calculations of saturation intensity (see example 3.1 on pp. 72 for an explanation).

Course Notes and Links

Useful Links

Equipment Manuals and SOPs

Laboratories and Assignments

There are five labs in this course. Lab sessions are two-hours in length and individual labs can span up to three consecutive lab periods. Labs for this course emphasize both proficiency in the manual skills required of a technician (e.g. the ability to use laboratory equipment, align optics and lasers, and take measurements of a system to characterize it) and experimental proof of concepts from the lectures. Reports will be submitted for each lab with an emphasis on results and observations.

In line with departmental policies, the lab portion of this course MUST be passed SEPARATELY from the theory portion in order to pass this course. Late labs result in an immediate mark of ZERO with no exceptions and no excuses accepted (including the now infamous "my printer ran out of ink" and "my computer died"). Failure to submit a lab (and a late lab is considered failed and will receive a mark of zero) will result in the student being placed on course condition. Failure to submit a second lab results in immediate EXPULSION from the course.

WARNING: You must pass the lab portion of the course separately from the theory portion in order to pass the course. Submission of late labs, or failure to submit any lab, will result in the student being placed on course condition - subsequent failure to submit labs on-time will result in automatic and immediate expulsion from the course (as discussed on the first day of classes): see the TL&P on Blackboard for details.

NOTE: While observed results (numbers only) may be identical for more than one student, no other portions of the lab are to be shared. Where procedures, analysis, graphs, and/or conclusions are suspected to be plagiarized, labs will be submitted to the dean's office and all students involved will receive a mark of zero. "Sharing" answers and analysis often equates to "Plagiarism" which is academic misconduct and will be treated accordingly.

Lab 0: Introduction

An introductory lab session in which lab groups will be assigned. Several key topics including lab safety, procedures, and lab report format will be covered. As well, requirements for prelab #1 will be reviewed.

On week 2 (Starting 2017/09/11)

As with all labs, attendance is mandatory (See T&LP for details as covered in the first class). Failure to attend this lab will result in being placed on course condition which will result, on the next absence, in automatic expulsion from the course.

Lab 1: Determining Planck's Constant

An expanded version of a lab you performed last year emphasizing data analysis using linear regression, estimation of error tolerances, and compensation for thermal energy. Using spectroscopy and basic electronics the spectral and V/I characteristics of several LEDs are observed. Analysis of the data allows determination of Planck's constant. Using the same technique, the unknown emission wavelength of an IR LED is determined solely from electrical observations.

Lab Weighting: 1.0
Part A on week 3 (starting 2017/09/18); Part B (completion) on week 4 (starting 2017/09/25) - this lab is two weeks in length
PRELAB due on entry to first lab period (week 3 starting 2017/09/18). Prelabs are not accepted late: they are either received upon entry to the lab or are assessed a mark of zero without exception.

Condensed Lab Report due on week 5 (2017/10/02)

Lab 2: Laser Diodes

The optical and electrical characteristics of visible red laser diodes is investigated. By using a Peltier effect thermoelectric cooler the effect of temperature on these devices is investigated.

Lab Weighting: 1.0
Lab on week 5 (starting 2017/10/02)
Condensed Lab Report due on week 6 (2017/10/9)

Lab 3A: HeNe Lasers

Basic electronics and laboratory skills will be developed while investigating the operation of the helium-neon gas laser. Students will wire a 'bare' gas laser tube to a power supply. As part of an assignment, optical and electrical characteristics will be investigated and students will be introduced to application of the gain threshold equation.

Lab Weighting: 2.0
Lab on week 6 (starting 2017/10/09)
PRELAB due on entry to lab period

Condensed Lab Report due on week of 2017/11/20 at the beginning of the regular lab period

Lab 3B: HeNe Lasers - Quantum

The quantum mechanics of the HeNe laser will be investigated including the application to selectively pump the ULL.

Lab Weighting: 1.0
Lab on week starting 2017/11/20
Condensed Lab Report due on week of 2017/11/27 at the beginning of the regular lab period

Lab 4: Gas Laser Optics

A bare helium-neon gas laser tube with completely external optics (the tube features windows instead of integral optics like most tubes) will be setup and the mechanics of this laser will be studied. The student will build the entire optical resonator on an optical breadboard and align cavity optics. Various electromagnetic modes (TEMxx) will be observed when aligning the optics. Next, gain will be determined (in the same manner as outlined in chapter 4 of FLL and chapter 2 of LM) by inserting a glass slide intra-cavity at various angles. This glass slide will render a loss ranging from close to 0% at Brewster's angle (polarized) to 8% at perpendicular. Using a reformulated gain threshold equation, actual small-signal gain (g0) for the amplification medium will be determined.

Lab Weighting: 3.0
Part A on week starting 2017/11/27
Part B on week starting 2017/12/04 - prelab due on this lab period
Part C on week starting 2017/12/11
PRELAB due on entry to the second lab period (week starting 2017/12/04)

Full Lab Report due at the beginning of your regular lab period on week starting 2017/12/18

Example Lab 4 Marking Scheme example

Lab 5: DPSS Lasers

The minimum pump power of a Diode-Pumped Solid-State (DPSS) laser will be computed theoretically from relations in the Laser Modeling text and compared to experimental measurements from the lab. Also covered is the appplication of the saturated gain formula in predicting output power.

Lab Weighting: 1.0
Lab on week starting 2018/01/01
PRELAB due on entry to first lab period (week starting 2018/01/01)

Condensed Lab Report due at the beginning of the class on 2018/01/10 (this is the last day of the term so the due date is not negotiable)


For the Photonics Technician/Technology programs ...
Program Coordinator Alexander McGlashan
Office: S106
Telephone (905) 735-2211 x.7513

For this specific course ...
Professor Mark Csele
Office: V113E (Office hours are POSTED on the Electroluminescent panel on the office door)
Telephone: (905) 735-2211 x.7629
E-Mail: (Be sure to include 'Lasers' in the subject line to avoid deletion by an anti-spam filter)


You are visitor # since May, 2003
Copyright (C) Professor M. Csele and Niagara College, Canada, 2002-2017
This course is part of the TECHNOLOGY division

Some images and text excerpted from Fundamentals of Light Sources and Lasers by Csele, John Wiley & Sons, 2004, ISBN 0-471-47660-9 and hence are Copyright John Wiley and Sons. Some images and text excerpted from Laser Modeling: A Numerical Approach with Algebra and Calculus by Csele, CRC Press, 2014, ISBN 9781466582507. Further reproduction in any form is prohibited without written approval from the publishers.