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When a polychromatic beam of light is shined upon a translucent planar material etched with a periodic pattern known as a diffraction grating, the different colors of the beam of light propagate in different directions. Such a diffraction grating can be used as a monochromator of light or as a spectrometer, as schematically illustrated in Fig. 8.1.
The physics of a diffraction grating can be understood by a simple interference argument: we suppose that light of wavelength λ is normally incident upon a thin opaque screen containing a large number of periodically arranged narrow apertures (slits) separated by a distance Δ. Because the light is normally incident upon the grating, the phase of the field is the same within each aperture. Each aperture produces a spherical wave, and we consider the overlap of the fields from two such elements in a direction θ from the normal to the surface; this is illustrated in Fig. 8.2.
As can be seen from the picture, the wave emanating from aperture 2 has to travel a distance Δsin θ farther than the wave emanating from aperture 1. This translates to a phase difference between the two waves of kΔsin θ, where k = 2π/λ is the wavenumber of the light.
It is obvious that the Cartesian coordinate system which we have been using up to this point is ideally suited for those situations in which one is trying to solve problems with a rectangular, or “box”-type geometry. Determining the electric potential inside of a cube, for instance, would be an ideal problem to use Cartesian coordinates, for one can choose coordinates such that faces of the cube each correspond to a coordinate being constant. However, it is also clear that there exist problems in which Cartesian coordinates are poorly suited. Two such situations are illustrated in Fig. 3.1. A monochromatic laser beam has a preferred direction of propagation z, but is often rotationally symmetric about this axis. Instead of using (x, y) to describe the transverse characteristics of the beam, it is natural to instead use polar coordinates (ρ,ϕ), which indicate the distance from the axis and the angle with respect to the x-axis, respectively. A point in three-dimensional space can be represented in such cylindrical coordinates by (ρ,ϕ,z). In the scattering of light from a localized scattering object, the field behaves far from the scatterer as a distorted spherical wave whose amplitude decays as 1/r, r being the distance from the origin of the scatterer.
High precision interferometers typically employ reflecting surfaces to interfere an optical beam with itself multiple times. One of the earliest of these, developed by Charles Fabry and Alfred Perot, is also one of the most persistently useful and versatile interferometeric devices. First introduced in 1897 as a technique for measuring the optical thickness of a slab or air or glass [FP97], the device found its most successful application only two years later as a spectroscopic device [FP99]. In its simplest incarnation, the interferometer is a pair of parallel, partially reflecting and negligibly thin mirrors separated by a distance d; it is illustrated in Fig. 7.1. A plane wave incident from the left will be partially transmitted through the device, and partially reflected; the amount of light transmitted depends in a nontrivial way upon the properties of the interferometer, namely the mirror separation d, the mirror reflectivity r and transmissivity t, and the wavenumber k of the incident light. In this section we will study the transmission properties of the interferometer and show that a solution to the problem requires the summation of an infinite series.
The most natural way to analyze the effects of the Fabry–Perot is to follow the possible paths of the plane wave through the system and track all of its possible behaviors. We begin with a monochromatic plane wave incident from the left of the form U(z, t) = Aexp[ikz – iωt].
The first textbook on mathematical methods focusing on techniques for optical science and engineering, this text is ideal for upper division undergraduate and graduate students in optical physics. Containing detailed sections on the basic theory, the textbook places strong emphasis on connecting the abstract mathematical concepts to the optical systems to which they are applied. It covers many topics which usually only appear in more specialized books, such as Zernike polynomials, wavelet and fractional Fourier transforms, vector spherical harmonics, the z-transform, and the angular spectrum representation. Most chapters end by showing how the techniques covered can be used to solve an optical problem. Essay problems based on research publications and numerous exercises help to further strengthen the connection between the theory and its applications.
Why another textbook on Mathematical Methods for Scientists? Certainly there are quite a few good, indeed classic texts on the subject. What can another text add that these others have not already done?
I began to ponder these questions, and my answers to them, over the past several years while teaching a graduate course on Mathematical Methods for Physics and Optical Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Although every student has his or her own difficulties in learning mathematical techniques, a few problems amongst the students have remained common and constant. The foremost among these is the “wall” between the mathematics the students learn in math class and the applications they study in other classes. The Fourier transform learned in math class is internally treated differently than the Fourier transform used in, say, Fraunhofer diffraction. The end result is that the student effectively learns the same topic twice, and is unable to use the intuition learned in a physics class to help aid in mathematical understanding, or to use the techniques learned in math class to formulate and solve physical problems.
To try and correct for this, I began to devote special lectures to the consequences of the math the students were studying. Lectures on complex analysis would be followed by discussions of the analytic properties of wavefields and the Kramers–Kronig relations. Lectures on infinite series could be highlighted by the discussion of the Fabry–Perot interferometer.