What Are the Different Types of Optical Components?

Each year, companies produce 100 million diode lasers using highly automated production lines.

These lasers also need optical components to work and create all the technology that we enjoy and use today!

But what are the different types of optical components? And which one should you choose? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know!


There are all kinds of different lenses that are available for purchase. The shape of the lens that is best suited for your optical system will be called a best-form. 

For example, imaging applications with unit magnification will use a symmetric biconvex lens for its best-form. This works because it will help to reduce the distortion of the image. 

If you’re interested in learning more about lenses, click here for additional information!

Spherical Lenses

Spherical lenses are normally used with optical systems designs. They usually have one surface that is convex or concave for one surface. This can either be flat or curved. 

A spherical lens is designed to have a negative focal length. This will help to diverge other light, which can create a virtual image. However, they can also be designed to have the opposite: a positive focal length and converge light. With this lens, you’ll have real images and they’ll be magnified as well. 

Cylindrical Lenses

These types of lenses have a curvature that runs along one axis. Because of this, they’ll focus light into one straight line rather than just one point.

These are normally used in medical applications or laser-based applications. They’re helpful when you need a single laser line for either marking or scanning something. 

Aspherical Lenses

The least common lens is an aspherical lens. These don’t have a spherical shape, but they do have a radius of curvature. The radius will change when you follow it from the center to the edge of the lens. 

If you use them with the right assembly, they can reduce a lot of issues that are normally related to using spherical lenses. 


Filters will help to alter the beam of light by changing the characteristics. This will either lower the intensity of the beam or change the spectral content of the beam. 

The intensity of the beam can be changed without changing the spectral content with a neutral density filter, for example. Or if you want to have a filter that absorbs or reflects light, you may want to use one of these filters:

  • High-pass
  • Low-pass
  • Edge
  • Dichroic
  • Interference

You’ll be able to find filters in two main materials: colored glass or a thin, metallic film. 

With metallic films, you’ll normally have it made of Inconel, chromium, and nickel. These aren’t sensitive to wavelength. However, if you use colored glass, it can be sensitive to even the smallest wavelengths. 

Some people also use neutral density filters in their assembly. These filters can either combine or split beams into a range of ratios. It will do this depending on what type of wavelengths pass through it. 

They can also have thing film coatings or thicker ones. The thickness will determine how much transmission the filter will let through. 


Optical mirrors can reflect light in the same way that your bathroom mirror would. These can be used for all kinds of things like:

  • Interferometry
  • Imaging
  • Illumination
  • Beam Steering

Because of how many uses it has, you can use it in all kinds of industries, including:

  • Astronomy
  • Meteorology
  • Semiconductor
  • Solar
  • Other sciences

Some mirrors also come coated with different options, like protected aluminum, enhanced aluminum, protected silver, gold, or dielectric. Make sure you figure out which reflective coating would work best for you because the coating will determine how much of the wavelength is reflected.


Prisms are a block of optical material. They have polished, flat sides, that meet at a controlled angle. The size of the angle is important. 

If you get a prism that has the wrong angle, it can leave even the smallest error in your operations. 

People use prisms to deviate or invert light, rotate images, or disperse lights into the right wavelengths. They can also separate polarization states as well. 

There are a few types of prisms, including: 

  • Right-angle prisms
  • Roof prisms
  • Mounted Dove prisms
  • Wedge prisms
  • Retroreflector prisms
  • Coupling prisms

A right-angle prism, for example, will bend light through a 90-degree angle. However, the dove prism is commonly used as an image rotator. 

A roof prism will deflect the light by a 90-degree angle and then invert that image as well. You could also use a wedge prism for beam steering. Because of all these applications, many people end up using prisms! 


Beamsplitters split the light into two different parts. They’re commonly used in illumination or laser systems. They can also be great for:

  • Optical interferometry 
  • Life science
  • Semiconductor instrumentation
  • Fluorescence 

When you use the beamsplitter, you’ll be able to adjust the percentage of the light you split. You can also change the polarization, intensity, and wavelength. You can find them in all kinds of shapes as well, including plates, cubes, or specialty shapes.

Learn More About Optical Components

These are only a few things to know about optical components, but there are many more things to keep in mind!

We know that trying to learn everything about optical components can be overwhelming and confusing, but we’re here to break it all down for you!

If you enjoyed this article, make sure that you explore our website to find more articles just like this one. 

Clarissa Cooke

Clarissa Cooke