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Optical Materials

  1. Gerald E. Jellison

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/3527600434.eap291.pub2

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

How to Cite

Jellison, G. E. 2005. Optical Materials. Encyclopedia of Applied Physics. .

Author Information

  1. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


Transparent optical materials are used in a variety of applications ranging from the very common, such as corrective lenses, to the very sophisticated, such as fiber-optic communications. As common as these applications are, optical materials possess many interesting and complicating properties, which are often ignored. For example, all optical materials absorb light in some spectral regions, and all materials experience dispersion, where the refractive index is a function of the wavelength of light. In this chapter, the basic physics of light interaction with optical materials is presented, primarily to explain many of these commonly observed phenomena. The emphasis of the chapter is on materials that are transparent in the region from the ultraviolet (down to ∼120 nm) to the mid-infrared (up to ∼40 microns). Perturbations of the basic optical properties of materials, such as those due to external strain and electric fields, will also be discussed. The properties of several specific optical materials will be discussed with the intent of demonstrating the basic physics and not to present a comprehensive listing of optical data. Thin films (that is, films with thicknesses on the order of the wavelength of light) are also discussed with the intent of understanding the physics of these materials and how they interact with light to produce the desired affects, such as reducing or enhancing the amount of light transmitted through or reflected from an optical device.


  • refractive index;
  • Maxwell's equations;
  • thin film;
  • glass;
  • ellipsometry;
  • optical anisotropy;
  • polarization;
  • reflection;
  • transmission