Coherence theory

Coherence theory

In physics, coherence theory is the study of optical effects arising from partially coherent light and radio sources. Partially coherent sources are sources where the coherence time or coherence length are limited by bandwidth, by thermal noise, or by other effect. Many aspects of modern coherence theory are studied in quantum optics.

The theory of partial coherence was awoken in the 1930s due to work by P. H. van Cittert and Frits Zernike.

Topics in coherence theory

  • Visibility
  • Mutual coherence function
  • Degree of coherence
  • Self coherence function
  • Coherence function
  • General interference law
  • Van Cittert–Zernike theorem
  • Michelson stellar interferometer
  • Correlation interferometry
  • Hanbury–Brown and Twiss effect
  • Phase-contrast microscope
  • Pseudothermal light
  • Englert–Greenberger duality relation
  • Coherence Collapse

See also


  • Eugene Hecht and Alfred Zajac, Optics, (1974) Addison-Wesley Publishing, Reading, Massachusetts ISBN 978-0-201-02835-5. (Chapter 12 provides and undergrad-level introduction.)

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