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OSE6118 - Optical Propagation in Inhomogeneous Media

Basic concepts of optical wave scattering and propagation in inhomogeneous media with applications to material sciences, optical remote sensing, biomedical optics, imaging, and image analysis.

This is a course in advanced physical optics that presents the basic concepts and mathematical formalism of electromagnetic wave scattering and propagation in inhomogeneous media. The objective is that students become familiar with (i) physical phenomena associated with the interaction between optical waves and random media and (ii) with the theory, design, and use of state of the art techniques that put these concepts into practice in a variety of applications. The course covers a spectrum of mathematical methods essential to characterize optically inhomogeneous media as well as the associated experimental techniques.

Applies to: material sciences, remote sensing, biomedical optics, imaging, and image analysis.


  • Appropriate graduate level

Credit Hours

  • 3 hours

Recommended books

  • M. Born and E. Wolf, Principles of Optics (Cambridge Univ Press, 1999)
  • C. F. Bohren and D. R. Huffman, Absorption and Scattering of Light by Small Particles (Wiley New York, 1983)
  • A. Ishimaru, Wave Propagation in Random Media (Oxford University Press, 1997)


  • Stochastic wave analysis
  • Monochromatic and quasi-monochromatic plane waves
  • Stokes parameters
  • Partial coherence
  • Volume scattering of radiation in tenuous random media
  • Scattering and absorption by particles
  • Single-scattering / First Born approximation
  • Correlated systems
  • Inverse scattering
  • Applications
  • Radiative transfer
  • Transport theory / methods of solutions
  • Diffusion approximation (space, time, and frequency domain)
  • First-order approximation
  • Effective medium / Coherent potential approximation
  • Volume scattering of radiation in dense, non-tenuous random media
  • Analogy between optical and electron waves propagation in mesoscopic systems
  • Polarization propagation
  • Specific effects in multiple scattering of light
  • Applications
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