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Is there any good software for construction optical path's in geometrical optics. More specifically I want features like:

  • draw $k \in \mathbb{N}$ objects $K_1,\dots,K_n$ with indices of refraction $n_1,\dots,n_k$ and light sources $l \in \mathbb{N}$ light sources $L_1,\dots,L_l$

    • draw for each some of these light sources light rays and the program constructs the optical path of those rays through $K_1,\dots,K_n$.

    • instead of drawing the light rays, draw a point and the program construction the optical path between the light sources and the given point

  • draw some specific optical elements like lenses, (concave, convex) mirrors and do things like above

  • construct automatically virtual images

  • 3D drawings would be fine

I would prefer free software for linux.

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I would download such a program if it were free, too. Sounds cool. ;-) –  Luboš Motl Mar 11 '11 at 17:41
A free program to simulate mechanics with any shapes etc. is Phun, see phunland.com/wiki/Home - it's really phun. –  Luboš Motl Mar 11 '11 at 17:42
Perhaps goptical (gnu.org/software/goptical) can be help you (if you can manage to use it). –  Georg Sievelson Nov 14 at 15:26

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The industrial tool is zemax; however, it is very expensive.

If you just want to make diagrams, the TeX package pst-optics might do the trick.

In the gaussian beam regime, optocad (free) is a tool often used in the laser interferometer gravitational wave detector community.

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I am not aware of a simple program to do what you ask. What comes to mind are either raytracers or finite element methods (FEM).

For a list of raytracing software: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ray_tracing_software

I am not aware of any free FEM software but for an overview of the principle go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_element

Edit: I didn't read carefully. You wanted geometrical optics. I was thinking of ray/wave optics.

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What's the difference between ray optics and geometrical optics? –  student Jun 7 '12 at 10:42
Geometrical optics is simpler in terms of descrbing the way a light beam travels. It completely ignores such effects as diffraction or interference. Ray or wave optics handles just that ... –  BandGap Jun 14 '12 at 15:42
@BandGap: Your last comment is actually wrong. Geometrical optics is the same as ray optics (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geometrical_optics). It is called so because simple geometry formulae are used to calculate the path of each ray through an optical system. Diffraction effects indeed cannot be treated this way. A wave optics method (there are many of them) would not use the paradigm of a ray at all. –  texnic Apr 26 '13 at 12:26
I thought of raytracers when I wrote my comment since they can calculate (some) aspects of wave optics but clearly you are right. –  BandGap Apr 26 '13 at 14:07

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