P&S: COMSOL Design Tool for Photonic Devices

Simulation of Optical Components

Simulation tools are becoming an essential accessory for scientists and engineers for the development of new devices and study of physical phenomena. More and more disciplines rely on accurate simulation tools to get insight and also to accurately design novel devices.

COMSOL is a powerful multi-physics simulation tool. It is used for a wide range of fields, including electromagnetics, semiconductors, thermodynamics and mechanics. In this P&S we will focus on the rapidly growing field of integrated photonics.

During hands-on exercises, you will learn how to accurately model and simulate various optical devices, which enables high-speed optical communication. At the end of the course, students will gain practical experience in simulating photonic components by picking a small project in which certain photonic devices will be optimized to achieve required specifications. These simulated devices find applications in Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) on chip-scale.

As an example of a project, Figure 1 below shows an electromagnetic wave propagating along a silicon waveguide and a 3 dB waveguide coupler.

Figure 1: An optimized 3 dB waveguide coupler.

Lecture information:

  • Lecture will be held live in the computer room ETZ D61.1 (check the lecture slides and corresponding lecture dates belowe.)
  • Tutorials will be posted online before the class hours:
    For tutorials & sample models refer to the COMSOL models page.
  • For troubleshooting within your COMSOL simulation, please use the Workflow and the Wiki on our website.
  • Please feel free to contact us in case of any questions, comments or doubts. If needed we can setup a virtual meeting.
    Manuel Kohli &Tobias Blatter & Raphael Schwanninger

General Information

A basic understanding of electromagnetics is helpful but not mandatory.

During the first half of the semester, different aspects of using COMSOL to design photonic components will be introduced starting from very basics. These lectures will consist of a short theoretical background review and hands on simulations (i.e. point source simulations, Young’s single/double slit experiment demonstrations, photonic mode simulations of different waveguides (fiber, slit, etc.), wave propagation simulations, ..) to apply what was demonstrated. In the second half of the semester, the focus will be on designing full-scale photonic components (i.e. directional coupler, ring resonator, multi-mode interferometer, …), and students can work on their design projects individually.

The course will be taught in English.

You can navigate to find the Comsol models that are used during the lectures, the basic workflow to use Comsol, and the wiki section for the common mistakes.

Schedule & Lecture Slides/Recordings

  • Week 1 (26.02.2023): Introduction & EM Review | Lecture & Tutorial
  • Week 2 (04.03.2023): Introduction to COMSOL | Lecture & Tutorial
  • Week 3 (11.03.2023): Single/Double Slit Experiments & Parametric Sweep | Lecture & Tutorial
  • Week 4 (18.03.2023): Waveguides and Propagation I | Lecture & Tutorial
  • Week 5 (25.03.2023): Waveguides and Propagation II | Lecture & Tutorial
  • Week 6 (01.04.2023): — EASTER BREAK —
  • Week 7 (08.04.2023): S-parameters & Project Descriptions | Lecture & Tutorial
  • Week 8 (15.04.2023): — SECHSELÄUTEN —
  • Week 9 (22.04.2023): Working on projects
  • Week 10 (29.04.2023): Working on projects
  • Week 11 (06.05.2023): Working on projects & presentations
  • Week 12 (13.05.2023): Working on projects & presentations
  • Week 12 (20.05.2023): –Whit Monday–
  • Week 13 (27.05.2023): Presentations

Deadline for the reports: Will be announced during the lecture


  • B. Salah and M. Teich, Fundamental of Photonics, 2nd ed., 2007.
  • K. Okamoto, Fundamentals of optical waveguides, 2nd ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2006.
  • COMSOL – Wave optics module


Manuel Kohli

Tobias Blatter

Raphael Schwanninger