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Quasioptics concerns the propagation of electromagnetic radiation when the size of the wavelength is comparable to the size of the optical components (e.g. lenses, mirrors, and apertures) and hence diffraction effects become significant. [1] It commonly describes the propagation of Gaussian beams where the beam width is comparable to the wavelength. This is in contrast to geometrical optics, where the wavelength is small compared to the relevant length scales.

Electromagnetic radiation form of energy emitted and absorbed by charged particles, which exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space

In physics, electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.

Wavelength spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the waves shape repeats, and thus the inverse of the spatial frequency

In physics, the wavelength is the spatial period of a periodic wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats. It is thus the inverse of the spatial frequency. Wavelength is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings and is a characteristic of both traveling waves and standing waves, as well as other spatial wave patterns. Wavelength is commonly designated by the Greek letter lambda (λ). The term wavelength is also sometimes applied to modulated waves, and to the sinusoidal envelopes of modulated waves or waves formed by interference of several sinusoids.

Diffraction refers to various phenomena that occur when a wave encounters an obstacle or a slit

Diffraction refers to various phenomena that occur when a wave encounters an obstacle or a slit. It is defined as the bending of waves around the corners of an obstacle or through an aperture into the region of geometrical shadow of the obstacle/aperture. The diffracting object or aperture effectively becomes a secondary source of the propagating wave. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1660.

Quasioptics is so named because it represents an intermediate regime between conventional optics and electronics, and is often relevant to the description of signals in the far-infrared or terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum. It represents a simplified version of the more rigorous treatment of physical optics.

Optics The branch of physics that studies light

Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behaviour of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves exhibit similar properties.

Electronics physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter

Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. The identification of the electron in 1897, along with the invention of the vacuum tube, which could amplify and rectify small electrical signals, inaugurated the field of electronics and the electron age.

Terahertz radiation The range 300-3000 GHz of the electromagnetic spectrum

Terahertz radiation – also known as submillimeter radiation, terahertz waves, tremendously high frequency (THF), T-rays, T-waves, T-light, T-lux or THz – consists of electromagnetic waves within the ITU-designated band of frequencies from 0.1 to 30 terahertz (THz). One terahertz is 1012 Hz or 1000 GHz. Wavelengths of radiation in the terahertz band correspondingly range from 1 mm to 0.1 mm (or 100 μm). Because terahertz radiation begins at a wavelength of one millimeter and proceeds into shorter wavelengths, it is sometimes known as the submillimeter band, and its radiation as submillimeter waves, especially in astronomy.

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In physics, attenuation or, in some contexts, extinction is the gradual loss of flux intensity through a medium. For instance, dark glasses attenuate sunlight, lead attenuates X-rays, and water and air attenuate both light and sound at variable attenuation rates.

Beam divergence How much a beam expands as it travels

In electromagnetics, especially in optics, beam divergence is an angular measure of the increase in beam diameter or radius with distance from the optical aperture or antenna aperture from which the beam emerges. The term is relevant only in the "far field", away from any focus of the beam. Practically speaking, however, the far field can commence physically close to the radiating aperture, depending on aperture diameter and the operating wavelength.

In physics, coherence length is the propagation distance over which a coherent wave maintains a specified degree of coherence. Wave interference is strong when the paths taken by all of the interfering waves differ by less than the coherence length. A wave with a longer coherence length is closer to a perfect sinusoidal wave. Coherence length is important in holography and telecommunications engineering.

Gaussian beam field of radiation (e.g. electromagnetic wave) whose amplitude is described by the Gaussian function

In optics, a Gaussian beam is a beam of monochromatic electromagnetic radiation whose transverse magnetic and electric field amplitude profiles are given by the Gaussian function; this also implies a Gaussian intensity (irradiance) profile. This fundamental (or TEM00) transverse gaussian mode describes the intended output of most (but not all) lasers, as such a beam can be focused into the most concentrated spot. When such a beam is refocused by a lens, the transverse phase dependence is altered; this results in a different Gaussian beam. The electric and magnetic field amplitude profiles along any such circular Gaussian beam (for a given wavelength and polarization) are determined by a single parameter: the so-called waist w0. At any position z relative to the waist (focus) along a beam having a specified w0, the field amplitudes and phases are thereby determined as detailed below.

Diffraction-limited system

The resolution of an optical imaging system – a microscope, telescope, or camera – can be limited by factors such as imperfections in the lenses or misalignment. However, there is a principal limit to the resolution of any optical system, due to the physics of diffraction. An optical system with resolution performance at the instrument's theoretical limit is said to be diffraction-limited.

A transverse mode of electromagnetic radiation is a particular electromagnetic field pattern of the radiation in the plane perpendicular to the radiation's propagation direction. Transverse modes occur in radio waves and microwaves confined to a waveguide, and also in light waves in an optical fiber and in a laser's optical resonator.

Absorption (electromagnetic radiation) way in which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter; physical process of absorbing light, while absorbance does not always measure absorption: it measures attenuation (of transmitted radiant power)

In physics, absorption of electromagnetic radiation is how matter takes up a photon's energy — and so transforms electromagnetic energy into internal energy of the absorber. A notable effect (attenuation) is to gradually reduce the intensity of light waves as they propagate through a medium. Although the absorption of waves does not usually depend on their intensity, in certain conditions (optics) the medium's transparency changes by a factor that varies as a function of wave intensity, and saturable absorption occurs.

A high-frequency approximation for scattering or other wave propagation problems, in physics or engineering, is an approximation whose accuracy increases with the size of features on the scatterer or medium relative to the wavelength of the scattered particles.

Fresnel number

The Fresnel number (F), named after the physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, is a dimensionless number occurring in optics, in particular in scalar diffraction theory.

Optical vortex

An optical vortex is a zero of an optical field; a point of zero intensity. The term is also used to describe a beam of light that has such a zero in it. The study of these phenomena is known as singular optics.

A prism coupler is a prism designed to couple a substantial fraction of the power contained in a beam of light into a thin film to be used as a waveguide without the need for precision polishing of the edge of the film, without the need for sub-micrometer alignment precision of the beam and the edge of the film, and without the need for matching the numerical aperture of the beam to the film. Using a prism coupler, a beam coupled into a thin film can have a diameter hundreds of times the thickness of the film. Invention of the coupler contributed to the initiation of a field of study known as integrated optics.

Spatial filter

A spatial filter is an optical device which uses the principles of Fourier optics to alter the structure of a beam of light or other electromagnetic radiation, typically coherent laser light. Spatial filtering is commonly used to "clean up" the output of lasers, removing aberrations in the beam due to imperfect, dirty, or damaged optics, or due to variations in the laser gain medium itself. This filtering can be applied to transmit a pure transverse mode from a multimode laser while blocking other modes emitted from the optical resonator. The term "filtering" indicates that the desirable structural features of the original source pass through the filter, while the undesirable features are blocked. Apparatus which follows the filter effectively sees a higher-quality but lower-powered image of the source, instead of the actual source directly. An example of the use of spatial filter can be seen in advanced setup of micro-Raman spectroscopy.

An optical waveguide is a physical structure that guides electromagnetic waves in the optical spectrum. Common types of optical waveguides include optical fiber and rectangular waveguides.

In laser science, the parameter M2, also known as the beam quality factor, represents the degree of variation of a beam from an ideal Gaussian beam. It is calculated from the ratio of the beam parameter product (BPP) of the beam to that of a Gaussian beam with the same wavelength. It relates the beam divergence of a laser beam to the minimum focussed spot size that can be achieved. For a single mode TEM00 (Gaussian) laser beam, M2 is exactly one.

Rayleigh length

In optics and especially laser science, the Rayleigh length or Rayleigh range, , is the distance along the propagation direction of a beam from the waist to the place where the area of the cross section is doubled. A related parameter is the confocal parameter, b, which is twice the Rayleigh length. The Rayleigh length is particularly important when beams are modeled as Gaussian beams.

Laser beam profiler

A laser beam profiler captures, displays, and records the spatial intensity profile of a laser beam at a particular plane transverse to the beam propagation path. Since there are many types of lasers — ultraviolet, visible, infrared, continuous wave, pulsed, high-power, low-power — there is an assortment of instrumentation for measuring laser beam profiles. No single laser beam profiler can handle every power level, pulse duration, repetition rate, wavelength, and beam size.

In laser science, laser beam quality defines aspects of the beam illumination pattern and the merits of a particular laser beam's propagation and transformation properties. By observing and recording the beam pattern, for example, one can infer the spatial mode properties of the beam and whether or not the beam is being clipped by an obstruction; By focusing the laser beam with a lens and measuring the minimum spot size, the number of times diffraction limit or focusing quality can be computed.

The Optical Stretcher is a dual-beam optical trap that is used for trapping and deforming ("stretching") micrometer-sized soft matter particles, such as biological cells in suspension. The forces used for trapping and deforming objects arise from photon momentum transfer on the surface of the objects, making the Optical Stretcher - unlike atomic force microscopy or micropipette aspiration - a tool for contact-free rheology measurements.


  1. Paul F. Goldsmith (1998). Quasioptical Systems: Gaussian Beam Quasioptical Propagation and Applications. IEEE Press. ISBN   0-7803-3439-6.