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Modern Optics


In the Optical and Atomic Physics Laboratory students get the opportunity to work with sophisticated equipment on experimental topics that reflect current trends in optical and atomic physics research.


laser cooling

Experiments include:


  • Laser cooling and trapping of atoms.
  • Entanglement of photons and Bell’s inequality.
  • Total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy.
  • Optical communications.
  • Sub-Doppler atomic spectroscopy.



The overall aim of the level 3 laboratory courses is to allow students to build on the experience in experimental physics gained in the previous years in the Department and to carry out an advanced project in one of the specialist laboratory sections and produce a high-quality scientific report. The projects are generally open-ended and unconstrained, allowing students the freedom to pursue directions that interest them. You will get the chance to discuss and agree the project direction with the laboratory supervisor.


The laboratory offers a variety of projects with the objectives of enhancing skills in particular areas of experimental physics. Although each project will, by the nature of things, be biased towards a particular set of skills the main general objectives are:


  • To design, plan, manage and execute a particular investigation based upon equipment that is either already available or can be obtained within reasonable constraints of time and cost (This can be discussed with the lab supervisor).
  • To learn and employ skills in optical alignment, electronics, data acquisition etc., in order to carry out the project.
  • To analyse and interpret the experimental results, in particular, appreciating the measurement uncertainties and their effects on the final results.
  • To extend the project beyond its original brief.
  • To produce a scientific report of the project which describes the experimentation, results and interpretation. The report should be framed such that someone outside the laboratory itself, but with a scientific background, is able to appreciate the project and work involved.

Each project has a set of instructions giving preliminary goals and some ideas about how to extend the project. They are intentionally quite brief since you are responsible for defining the overall scope of your project; the instructions are provided as a guide and potential starting point. If you can think of something more interesting to do with the apparatus, discuss this with the supervisor!


It is expected that you will consult textbooks and research articles as necessary and look up information on the internet. A useful starting point is Optics by Hecht. You will also find it useful to look at your old lecture notes on Optics. Although the internet can provide useful leads it is not the only source of information. At this stage the use of academic databases (Web of Science, PubMed etc) should be examined and all can be accessed through the library web pages.



Current project scripts for the Atomic and Optical Physics Laboratory can be found on DUO. A list of typical projects are given below. Note that we regularly update our projects, so those available in a particular term may not exactly correspond to this list.




Safety is a particular concern in this section due to the use of lasers. Please consult the generic safety information, as well as specific information given here.