Electrical, Optical & Magnetic Materials and Devices

Course 3 of 4: xMinor in Materials for Electronic, Optical, and Magnetic Devices 16 weeks total 8 - 12 hours each week

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About this course

This course will explain the basis of the electrical, optical, and magnetic properties of materials including semiconductors, metals, organics and insulators, and will show how devices are built to take advantage of those properties. It is illustrated with a wide range of devices, placing a strong emphasis on new and emerging technologies. Applications presented include diodes, transistors, photodetectors, solar cells (photovoltaics), displays, light emitting diodes, lasers, optical fibers and optical communications, photonic devices, magnetic data storage, motors, transformers and spintronics.

Image attribution: Disk drive: KEURT Datenrettung, Lasers: US Navy Surface Warfare Center, Computer Chip: Jon Sullivan

What you’ll learn

Part 1: The origins of semiconductor properties

  • Carrier action in semiconductors: drift, diffusion, recombination and generation
  • The behavior of p-n junctions at equilibrium and under bias
  • The derivation and application of the ideal diode equation, and how real diodes differ from ideal diodes
  • Operating principles of bipolar junction transistors and MOSFETs


Part 2: The fundamental operating principles of photodevices

  • LED and heterojunction laser materials selection and design
  • Fundamentals of organic electronics and liquid crystal displays An overview of photonic systems
  • Optical fibers: dispersion, losses, and design choices


Part 3: Fundamentals of magnetism

  • The role anisotropy plays in the magnetic behavior of materials
  • The operating principles of transformers and DC motors
  • How data is stored on hard disks
  • Principles of optical and magnetooptical storage like an expert


Physics, calculus, and chemistry at the first year university level
Familiarity with materials structure and bonding
A background in solid state physics is helpful, but is not absolutely essential

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners from one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. EdX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.

Meet your instructors

Caroline Ross

Caroline Ross

Toyota Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT
Caroline Ross is Toyota Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her undergraduate and PhD degrees from Cambridge University, UK, was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, and worked at Komag, a hard disk company, before joining MIT. Prof. Ross studies the magnetic properties of thin films and nanostructures for data storage and logic applications, and methods for creating nanoscale structures based on directed self-assembly and lithography.
Jessica Sandland

Jessica Sandland

Lecturer & Digital Learning Scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jessica Sandland is a Lecturer in the Department of Material Science and Engineering and an MITx Digital Learning Scientist. Jessica leads online learning initiatives in DMSE, creating MOOCs and designing blended courses for MIT students. She has coordinated the development of a wide variety of DMSE’s online courses.

Experience Level


Learning Partner

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Program Type



Electronics Science