We provide a pedagogical introduction to the concept of the local density of optical states (LDOS), illustrating its application to both the classical and quantum theory of radiation. We show that the LDOS governs the efficiency of a macroscopic classical antenna, determining how the antenna's emission depends on its environment. The LDOS is shown to similarly modify the spontaneous emission rate of a quantum emitter, such as an excited atom, molecule, ion, or quantum dot that is embedded in a nanostructured optical environment. The difference between the number density of optical states, the LDOS, and the partial LDOS is elaborated and examples are provided for each density of states to illustrate where these are required. We illustrate the universal effect of the LDOS on emission by comparing systems with emission wavelengths that differ by more than 5 orders of magnitude, and systems whose decay rates differ by more than 5 orders of magnitude. To conclude we discuss and resolve an apparent difference between the classical and quantum expressions for the spontaneous emission rate that often seems to be overlooked, and discuss the experimental determination of the LDOS.
- density of states
- spontaneous emission