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OSE3200 - Geometric Optics

Fundamentals of geometrical Optics. Geometrical theory of image formation. Chromatic and monochromatic aberrations. Optical Systems.

OSE3200 – Geometric Optics

Introductory optics course that describes the behavior of light as rays. Reflection, refraction, and transmission. Basic optical elements: lenses, mirrors and prisms. Wavefront shaping and image formation. Optical design and systems (cameras, telescopes, luminaires).

Credits: 3 hours

Prerequisites: MAP 2302 Differential Equations, acceptance to PSE Major

Detailed course description:

Geometric optics is the study of light in its simplest form by treating light as rays. Light rays travel in straight lines until they encounter an interface (such as a mirror or a lens) where they may be redirected by reflection and refraction. This course describes the physical principles that determine how rays behave at various interfaces. These principles are then used to model simple optical systems with varying degrees of fidelity. Natural optical phenomena (rainbows, mirages, total-internal reflection, etc.) and classic optical systems (prisms, telescopes, cameras, etc.) will be analyzed throughout the course. Linear systems will be introduced to analyze more complex optical systems. This course provides the fundamentals needed for optical engineering and optical system design.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of this course, students should understand the physical principles underlying geometrical optics, especially the relationship between rays, wavefronts and electromagnetic waves. They should understand how light propagates through “most” optical systems – where “most” refers to optical systems that are not affected by the wave nature of light. They should be able to analyze and design simple optical systems such as telescopes, imagers, luminaires and concentrators. For example, students should be able to:

  • Determine the behavior of a ray (reflection/refraction angles and amplitudes) at any optical surface.
  • Design an imaging system with a desired resolution, field-of-view and magnification.
  • Model a complex optical system using paraxial ray tracing.
  • Identify fundamental limits and aberrations in an optical system.


1) Introduction to Geometric Optics – Light as Rays: Wave nature of light, propagation in homogeneous media, wavefronts and rays, radiometry, limits of geometrical optics.

2) Planar Optical Surfaces: Refractive index, optical path length, Fermat’s principle, Snell’s law, reflection and refraction, plane parallel plates, prisms, optical materials.

3) Curved Optical Surfaces: Image formation, lenses, optical spaces, image types, shape of optical surfaces, ray tracing, paraxial approximation.

4) Imaging: Lens design, thin lens model, magnification, ZZ’ diagram, cardinal points, Gaussian optics, thick lenses, mirrors.

5) Apertures: Aperture stop, field stop, F-number, numerical aperture, depth of focus.

6) Example Optical Systems: Telescopes, cameras, microscopes, luminaires, concentrators, displays.

7) Aberrations: Diffraction limit, chromatic and monochromatic aberrations.


Geometrical and Trigonometric Optics, 1st ed., E. L. Dereniak, and T. D. Dereniak, Cambridge University Press 2008.

Reference Books:

Introduction to Optics, 3rd ed., F. L. Pedrotti, L.S. Pedrotti and L. M. Pedrotti, Prentice-Hall, 2009.
Geometrical Optics and Optical Design, P. Mouralis and J. Macdonald, Oxford University Press, 1997.