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Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS3721 Modern Atomic and Optical Physics 3 (2018/19)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above. A detailed description of the module's content is given below, together with book lists and a link to the current library catalogue entries. For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see


Atomic Clocks

Dr D. Carty

18 lectures + 8 workshops in Michaelmas Term


Required: Atomic Physics, C J. Foot (Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 0 19 850696 1)

Syllabus: History of precision measurement of time. Principle of atomic clocks, revision of atomic structure, electric and magnetic dipole interactions with electromagnetic fields, selection rules. Visualising electron distributions in atoms during transitions. Spontaneous emission, Einstein A coefficient and relationship with atomic clocks, lifetimes, line widths, line intensities and line shapes. Fine-structure and hyperfine splitting, using degenerate perturbation theory to calculate the ground-state hyperfine splitting of the H atom. Lifetimes of electric dipole forbidden transitions, selection rules and relationship with atomic clocks. Zeeman effect, using degenerate perturbation theory to calculate Zeeman shifts of the hyperfine states of the ground-state of the H atom, relationship with atomic clocks. Derivation of Rabi equation for two-level system, transit-time broadening, relationship with atomic clocks. Light forces, the scattering force. Laser cooling of atoms, optical molasses, Doppler limit. Zeeman slowing and Sisyphus cooling of atoms. Magneto-optical trapping of atoms. Moving molasses, caesium fountain clock, Ramsay Interferometry. Optical frequency standards, laser locking. Optical frequency combs, ion trapping, Lamb-Dicke regime. Aluminium quantum logic clock, Ytterbium ion clock. Strontium optical lattice clock, AC Stark effect, dipole force, optical dipole traps and optical lattices, magic wavelength optical lattice. Systematic effects in optical frequency standards, comparisons between clocks. Applications of atomic clocks, time-variation of fundamental constants, electric-dipole moment of the electron and relativistic geodesy.

Fourier Optics

Professor I.G. Hughes

18 lectures + 9 workshops in Epiphany Term


Required: Optics f2f: from Fourier to Fresnel, C.S. Adams and I.G. Hughes (OUP, 2018).
The course is defined by material contained in this book and in particular the material defined in the syllabus below with reference to the chapters in the book.

Additional: Introduction to Fourier Optics, J.W. Goodman (McGraw-Hill 2nd edition).

Syllabus: Fourier toolkit (Appendix B); angular spectrum (Chapter 6); optical phenomena in the time-domain (Chapter 7); coherence (Chapter 8); Fresnel and Fraunhofer, 2D diffraction – letters, circles, Babinet and apodization, lenses, imaging, spatial filtering (Chapters 9 and 10); gaussian beams (Chapter 11); lasers and cavities (Chapter 11).


2 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer.

Teaching Methods

Lectures: 2 one-hour lectures per week.

Workshops: These provide an opportunity to work through and digest the course material by attempting exercises assisted by direct interaction with the workshop leaders. They also provide opportunity for you to obtain further feedback on the self-assessed formative weekly problems. Students will be divided into four groups, each of which will attend one one-hour class every week. The workshops for this module are not compulsory.

Progress test: One compulsory formative progress test (to be completed over the Christmas break)

Problem exercises: See