2nd course in the Active Optical Devices Specialization

Instructor: Juliet Gopinath, Ph.D., Professor

This course dives into nanophotonic light-emitting devices and optical detectors, including metal semiconductors, metal-semiconductor insulators, and pn junctions. We will also cover photoconductors, avalanche photodiodes, and photomultiplier tubes. Weekly homework problem sets will challenge you to apply the principles of analysis and design we cover in preparation for real-world problems.

Prior knowledge needed: Undergraduate courses in physics, calculus, multivariable calculus, differential equations, modern physics/waves, electromagnetism quantum mechanics or quantum physics, statistical mechanics or thermal physics semiconductor physics. Graduate level courses in physical optics, lasers, and completion of semiconductor devices specialization (ECEA 5630 Semiconductor Physics, ECEA 5631 Diode: Junction and Metal Semiconductor Contact, and ECEA 5632 Transistor: field effect transistor and bipolar junction transistor). 

Specific skills to review before the course: Unit conversions for energy (i.e. eV to J), Planck's constant, Trigonometric & exponential functions, Algebraic manipulation, Partial derivatives, Polarization, Conventional laser stimulated emission theory, Maxwell–Boltzmann vs. Fermi vs. Bose statistics, Quantum solution to the particle-in-the-box potential and Basics of a semiconductor.

Learning Outcomes

  • Use nanophotonic effects (low dimensional structures) to engineer lasers.
  • Apply low dimensional structures to photonic device design.
  • Select and design optical detector for given system and application.


Duration: 2 hours

The course covers the basics of nanophotonic light-emitting devices and optical detectors, including metal-semiconductor, metal-semiconductor insulator, and pn junctions, photoconductors, avalanche photodiodes, and photomultiplier tubes. Low dimensional structures enable an entirely new class of devices. Join on a journey to understand how this happens and explore powerful examples of successful technologies such as the quantum cascade laser. Module 1 will cover the quantum cascade laser, a laser design based on intersub-band transitions, that enables very long wavelength lasers. It will also talk about lasers that operate on intraband transitions, using low dimensional structures, which enable further control over carrier concentrations.

Duration: 2 hours

In this unit, we will learn how to confine photons just as we do with electrons. This gives us power over the allowed modes of emission, allowing us to enhance the performance of lasers as well as develop 'threshold-less' lasers.

Duration: 2 hours

In this module, you will learn about the basics of detection and the key performance metrics that are used to evaluate detectors including noise equivalent power and detectivity. This lays the building blocks for fundamental understanding, design, and use of different photonic detection technology. This is core information that should be in the wheelhouse of any photonics researcher or engineer.

Duration: 2 hours

In this unit, you will learn about the fundamentals of how metal insulator semiconductor devices operate, their advantages and challenges they face. This information is particularly useful for understanding the operation of charge-coupled devices, discussed in the next section.

Duration: 4 hours

In this module, you will learn about two powerful detection technologies: charge-coupled devices (CCDs) based on metal-insulator-semiconductor structures and photoconductors. These technologies are very useful for photonic systems.

Duration: 3 hours

In this module, you will learn about another very important detector technology: p-n junctions. These junctions can be used to be photodiodes as well as avalanche photodiodes. We will learn these important technologies function, with applications ranging from microscopy to light detection and ranging (LIDAR).

Duration: 2 hours

Final exam for this course.

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Percentage of Grade

Quiz: Quantum Cascade Lasers and Low-Dimensional Structures


Quiz: Confined Photons


Quiz: Photonic Detection


Quiz: Metal Insulator Semiconductor Structures


Quiz: Charge Coupled Devices (CCDs) and Photoconductors


Quiz: P/N Junctions and Avalanche Photodiodes (APDs)


Final Exam


Letter Grade Rubric 

Letter Grade 
Minimum Percentage