So, you are a seriously technical person, but have more questions than answers when it comes to light, optics, and illumination. You’ve attended, and maybe aced, Physics 101 where you learned that light travels faster than anything else in the universe, and that lenses bend light….or at least slow it down. But when it comes to making the light form good images, or using LEDs to light something, or piping light to a display, you get more than just a little frustrated.
Well, this and future articles are meant to help clarify the way light behaves, and some of the means of controlling light with optics. It is intended to address basic optical topics for the non-optical engineer or scientist. Therefore, I don’t intend to get deep into the details of the optical design process or the physics, but I do intend to address some topics that will help explain the how and why of optical behavior. For instance, I hope to explain why, under normal circumstances, an image can never be brighter than the source, why there are practical limitations of F-number while pursuing a wide field of view, and how the performance of an optical system can be improved through a practical understanding of aberrations. I hope that it will provide a better understanding of why good optical design involves much more than simply knowing how to operate a piece of software.
To give you a look ahead, let me tell you about some of the items on my agenda. Undoubtedly some people will be interested in some topics, some in others. A few of the topics I plan to address relate to the physics of light and polarization; illumination (with an emphasis on LEDs and lightpipes); a variety of lens design topics, and a fairly significant amount of information on optical materials, with an emphasis on plastic optics and rapid prototyping. Buried in all of this mix, I intend to address filters, including dielectric interference filters and why they work, as well as absorbing filters and their dependencies on precision manufacturing.
So let’s turn our attention to some basic topics on which to build…..