Optical communication engineering

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This is Derek Abbott's wiki project page for the Optical Communication Engineering (4041) lectures. All information regarding this course can be found here.


All the Comms IV materials and downloads are on this page. There are no rules. Anyone can edit this page and add questions and discussion. It is self-moderating and you can delete and edit anything you like. To resolve conflicts use the discussion page. I encourage you to use this as a forum to ask technical questions and even give answers if you know them. If you come across your own hints and tips that you think are useful to others, feel free to add them.


For Semester 2, 2010, there will be three lectures per week:

  • Monday 11am, 322 (Hughes Building)
  • Monday 12noon, 322 (Hughes Building)
  • Wednesday 3pm, N132 (Engineering North Building)

We will meet during all three lecture slots and will have three lectures per week. The Wednesday slot will sometimes be a tutorial.

This will be announced the week before. In total there will be 2 tutorials and 23 set lectures. We will probably go over the 23 lectures for revision and worked examples, if needed.

Course description

Course notes

You must bring hard copies of the notes to every lecture and annotate the notes, based on my lecture in order to make the most of attendance. It is cheaper to buy the notes from EESAU, however if you miss out you can download them from here:


You must download these tutorials and attempt them 1-week before the tutorial to get the most out of it. Each tutorial date will be announced a week in advance. Note that tutorial solutions are not given out, so you need to attend the tutorials.


There will be one Assignment that will count towards 30% of the course (the exam will count as 70%). The time to start working on the assignment is the mid-term break.

Formula sheets

Familiarize yourselves with this sheet as you get it as a handout in the exam:

The following formula sheet is designed for the whole BEng degree and is not given at exams. However it is very useful for solving problems for all courses in the degree for all 4 years. It is also useful if you carry on with a PhD.


If you found something confusing in an Opt Comms lecture and thought it was a rather "muddy point" then on the list page, below, go ahead and ask a question. Anyone can answer: either myself or any other student can answer. I will of course tweek everyone's answers to make them clear and check they are correct.

How to pass an exam

The trick with passing my exams is to note that I am more interested in your discussion and working than the final numerical answer. I like to see that you have understood the intuition of the problem and that you understand where the assumsptions are. I don't really care that much if you make a numerical error. If you think your final answer has an unphysical value of the wrong order of magnitude, just explain in your script why you think the number us out and that'll show me you are thinking critically. It is the critical thinking I care about. To see what I consider a "model" way of answering exam questions, see here:

Past exams

Course text

The mandatory text is by Palais:

These are the two Bibles in the field and are worth getting if you see your career in photonic aspects of electrical engineering:

Optional reading for reference:

Your lecturer

External links