Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Quantum and Atom Optics PHYS5002

  • Academic Session: 2020-21
  • School: School of Physics and Astronomy
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

Quantum optics describes light in terms of quantized photons, atom optics describes matter in terms of quantum waves. Current research in these fields include the exploration of fundamental quantum effects, the development of technological breakthroughs and applications in metrology and sensing. This course covers basic concepts of quantum and atom optics, introduces students to current literature on selected topics and is accompanied by exercises.


Course syllabus for quantum optics:

■ Characterisation of Quantum Optics in the development of physical theories

■ Introduction to a quantisation of the electrodynamical field and quantum states of light

■ Description of optical elements, such as beam splitters, acting on states of light

■ Introduction to the concept of correlations, optical coherence and quasi-probability functions and non-classical light

■ Introduction to the concept of zero-point energy and Casimir forces

■ Introduction into the quantum description of light-matter interactions, strong coupling and cavity quantum electrodynamics

Course syllabus for atom optics:

■ Introduction to atom optics and the mechanical forces that light can exert on atoms.

■ Theoretical description of light-matter interaction based on classical and semiclassical models; introduction of Rabi oscillations, development and interpretation of optical Bloch equations, derivation of expressions for the scattering and dipole force.

■ Introduction to experimental techniques and parameters relevant for atom cooling and trapping; Zeeman and chirp slowing, optical molasses, magneto-optical traps, dipole traps. Derivation of the recoil and Doppler temperature.

■ Description of some applications in atom optics, including absorption spectroscopy, atomic memories and atomic clocks.


  18 lectures, typically 2 lectures per week

Requirements of Entry

Quantum and Atom Optics is an elective course for the following degree programmes:


MSc in Quantum Technology, MSci Physics, MSci Theoretical Physics, MSci Physics with Astrophysics


In exceptional circumstances and only after prior agreement with the lecturers this course may also be taken as an elective for Honours students in Physics, Theoretical Physics or Physics with Astrophysics.


Prerequisites for this course are a basic understanding of general concepts in optics and atomic physics, as well as quantum mechanical operators and wavefunctions and electromagnetism. Students must normally have attended previously, and been examined in, the following pre-requisite courses:


PHYS4002 Atomic Systems and PHYS4025 Quantum Mechanics


It is recommended that students will also have taken courses Modern Optics (PHYS4014) and Quantum Theory (PHYS4026).


For visiting students or MSci students entering directly from other universities these can be replaced with equivalent courses.


Excluded Courses





Written Exam (75%), part of the usual degree examinations

Written Assignment (25%), online assessment via Moodle quizzes and similar

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

To provide students with an opportunity to develop knowledge and understanding of the key principles of Quantum and Atom Optics, and their relevance to current developments in physics, at a level appropriate for a professional physicist.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of the course students will be able to demonstrate a knowledge and broad understanding of Quantum and Atom Optics and show a critical awareness of the significance and importance of the topics, methods and techniques discussed in the lectures and their relationship to concepts presented in other courses. They should be able to describe and analyse quantitatively processes, relationships and techniques relevant to the topics included in the course outline, applying these ideas and techniques to analyse critically and solve advanced or complex problems which may include unseen elements. They should be able to write down and, where appropriate, either prove or explain the underlying basis of physical laws relevant to the course topics and discuss their applications.


Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.