Postgraduate taught 

Computer Systems Engineering MSc

Optical Communications ENG5066

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Engineering
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides an introduction to optical data transmission. It covers the materials used in optoelectronics, the operation of LEDs and lasers, optical fibres, optical detectors and concepts for modern optical fibre communication systems.


1 whole morning or afternoon session, weekly

Excluded Courses





Degree Examination 80%

Essay 20%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

The aim of this course is to develop in students a comprehensive understanding of optical data transmission, from the underlying semiconductor materials and active devices, through transmission media, to multiplexing techniques and overall systems design.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ recognise the properties of the materials used in the fabrication of LEDs, lasers, optical fibres and optical detectors which fit them for their roles;

■ explain device concepts in source and detector physics, including recombination mechanisms, stimulated and spontaneous emission rates, direct / indirect semiconductors and semiconductor alloys, injection luminescence, quantum efficiencies, double heterostructures, and quantum wells;

■ illustrate in detail the operating principles of LEDs and semiconductor lasers;

■ contrast the operation and advantages of the various LED and laser types used in modern fibre communication systems;

■ identify key properties of optical fibres and waveguides (numerical aperture, dispersion, single/multi mode);

■ summarise the design and operating principle of components used in pratical modern fibre optical systems;

■ explain the operating principles of PIN, avalanche and heterostructure photodiodes, illustrate the methods used in their fabrication, and assess their advantages and disadvantages with respect to figures of merit such as frequency response and noise;

■ assess noise and bandwidth of receiver amplifiers, and compare recevier amplifier designs;

■ recall fundamental concepts in optical systems design (e.g. point-to-point links, power budgeting, dispersion limits, time division / frequency division multiplexing);

■ contrast the relative merits of current digital optical networks;

■ judge the partitioning of an optical communication system into specifications for sources, detectors, fibres and data transmission schemes;

■ design and integrate LEDs/lasers, detectors, fibres and communications schemes to overall optical communcations system specifications;

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must attend the degree examination and submit at least 75% by weight of the other components of the course's summative assessment.


Students should attend at least 75% of the timetabled classes of the course.


Note that these are minimum requirements: good students will achieve far higher participation/submission rates.  Any student who misses an assessment or a significant number of classes because of illness or other good cause should report this by completing a MyCampus absence report.