Integrating nanophotonic concepts and topics into optics curricula


Nanophotonics has emerged as a new and important field of study, not only in research, but also in undergraduate optics and photonics education and training. Beyond the study of classical and quantum optics, it is important for students to learn about how the flow of light can be manipulated on a nanoscale level, and used in applications such as telecommunications, imaging, and medicine. This paper reports on our work to integrate basic nanophotonic concepts and topics into existing optics and optical electronics courses, as well as independent study projects, at the undergraduate level. Through classroom lectures, topical readings, computer modeling exercises, and laboratory experiments, students are introduced to nanophotonic concepts subsequent to a study of physical and geometrical optics. A compare and contrast methodology is employed to help students identify similarities and differences that exist in the optical behavior of bulk and nanostructured media. Training is further developed through engineering design and simulation exercises that use advanced, vector-diffraction-based, modeling software for simulating the performance of various materials and structures. To date, the addition of a nanophotonics component to the optics curriculum has proven successful, been enthusiastically received by students, and should serve as a basis for further course development efforts that emphasize the combined capabilities of nanotechnology and photonics.