Basics of Electro-Optics
by Ron Kurtus (28 June 2006)
As in the Basics of Optics, electro-optics is concerned with the generation, control of propagation and detection of electromagnetic waves. The main difference is that electro-optics specializes in components, devices and systems which operate by modification of the optical properties of a material by an electric field. Typically, they are in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Questions you may have include:
- How is electro-optics used in the generation of light?
- How does it control the propagation of radiation?
- How is electro-optics used in the detection of light?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Electro-optics is concerned with the generation of electromagnetic waves by the means of electrical fields. Certainly, radio and television waves and microwaves are created electronically, as are some lasers and masers.
But in the case of longer wavelengths, electro-optics is not concerned with the creation of the radiation as it is concerned with the propagation and detection. For example, infrared radiation is often generated by the heat of an object, but its detection usually requires electronic means.
There are electronic devices that can control the propagation of non-visible light, but they are not the mainstay of electro-optics. Usually exotic materials are used to direct and focus the various non-visible waveforms.
Detection is the heart of electro-optics. Photodetectors respond to electromagnetic radiation and electrically record its characteristics. The sensors in some photodetectors record a change in electrical resistance, while others create an electrical potential. Chemical detection of radiation, such as with photographic film is not usually considered part of electro-optics.
Electronic devices such as focal-plane arrays and charge-couple devices (CCD) are often used to detect and directly change the light into an electrical signal.
Electro-optics is concerned with components, devices and systems that use electrical fields to create, control of propagation and detect electromagnetic waves. Typically, the science focuses on the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Complex is not necessarily better
Resources and references
(Notice: The School for Champions may earn commissions from book purchases)
Questions and comments
Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.
Share this page
Click on a button to bookmark or share this page through Twitter, Facebook, email, or other services:
Students and researchers
The Web address of this page is:
Please include it as a reference in your report, document, or thesis.
Where are you now?
Basics of Electro-Optics