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Pawat Silawattakun (G) February 10th, 2013 Charterhouse - Dr Lancefield

An Investigation on the Diffraction of Light

Abstract: Multiple experiments were conducted over the course of a week to investigate the behavior of light when it is diffracted, and the phenomena of constructive and destructive interference. The underlying physics is relatively simple; where two or more waves overlap at the same point in space and time, the resulting wave is the sum of each of the individual wave amplitudes this is the law of superposition. Three separate experiments were conducted; the Youngs Double Slit, Diffraction Grating, and the Single Slit Diffraction. A monochromatic light source (a laser) was used to shine through single slits as well as multiple slits, and the light is diffracted onto a white screen. The gap between each bright spot or dark spot is measured with a ruler, and calculations could be performed to analyze the wavelength of the light, as well as the width of the gaps between the slits. It was discovered that the size of the gaps vary with increasing slits, and it was also found that there is a pattern which links the size of the gaps to the increasing number of slits.

Introduction: The aims of the experiments were to determine, with its uncertainties, the width of a gap between the diffraction slits (of value d metres), the width of a diffraction slit (of value b metres), and also the wavelength of two different coloured lasers (in metres). This experiment is useful because it allows a deeper understanding of constructive and destructive inference of waves, as it can be seen visually on paper (unlike sound waves). Also being able to work out the wavelength of a laser can be useful in verifying the known value of the laser. The independent variables are the different types of slits as well as the two different lasers. The dependent variable is the size of the bright and dark fringes that were observed on the screen.

Theory: Youngs Double Slit: The equation used to work out the distance between each two slits is: dsin = n where d is the distance between two slits, is the angle made between a dark/bright spot, n is the order of the diffraction pattern, and is the wavelength of the laser (nm). Bright Fringes: dsin = n Dark Fringes: dsin = (n+1/2) To find out what the angle is, = tan-1(pd/D) where pd is the path difference which is equivalent to n, and D is 2 0.005m.

Pawat Silawattakun (G) February 10th, 2013 Charterhouse - Dr Lancefield

Diffraction Grating: The equation dsin = n is also used for diffraction grating. Another important equation required to find d is the conversion of number of lines/mm to m, which is 10-3/no. of lines/mm. With more slits, the dark fringes become larger because the region where there is constructive interference is extremely narrow, as all the waves have to be coherent; it only requires a few incoherent waves from the hundreds of slits to cause the waves to be out of phase this increases with the number of slits.

Single Slit Diffraction: Using Huygens Construction, if an imaginary block were to be put between the single slit, the diffraction would be similar to the double slit. Therefore, when the block is removed, there will be a point on the top half exactly like the bottom half and they will cancel out because they are out of phase the reason they are out of phase is because the path difference between the top half and the bottom half is . Hence the equation governing the gap of the slit is: bsin = n where b is the width of the single slit gap.

Apparatus: Screen, white paper, Double Slit kit, Diffraction Grating kit (three different gratings), Single Slit kit, red laser, green laser, marker, metre rule, ruler.

Safety: Although Class 2 Lasers are safe to the eyes, do not look or shine lasers directly into eyes in a dark environment, eyes are more vulnerable to sudden changes in brightness because the iris dilates in the dark; therefore it is important in the lab not to misuse the lasers.

Pawat Silawattakun (G) February 10th, 2013 Charterhouse - Dr Lancefield


Procedure: Youngs Double Slit: The double slit was placed on a stand exactly two metres away from a screen covered in white paper. The laser was placed right behind the double slit, as perpendicular to the slit as possible. The double slit was removed from the stand, and the laser was shined onto the paper. The single beam was marked with a pen on the screen this is n = 0. The double slit was placed back onto the stand, and the gaps between the dots (dark fringes) were measured with a ruler to an accuracy of millimeters.

Diffraction Grating: The same procedures as the Youngs Double Slit were undertaken; however, the length between the screen and slit was reduced to 0.3 m, and the double slit was replaced by a diffraction grating and the experiment was done and repeated for the three different gratings. The entire experiment was then repeated using a green laser instead of a red laser.

Pawat Silawattakun (G) February 10th, 2013 Charterhouse - Dr Lancefield

Single Slit Diffraction: The Single Slit was conducted in the same way as the Youngs Double Slit, with the double slit replaced by a single slit. However, when the dots the measured, the distance between the centres of the spots (bright fringes) which was measured, as opposed to the length of the dark fringes in the previous experiment.

Results and Analysis:

Diffraction Grating: The values of the wavelengths were worked out for a red laser and a green laser in this particular experiment. Each diffraction grating had 100, 300, or 600 lines/mm. The value of d was worked out by d = 10-3 / x lines/mm. The value of the red laser was 698 17.5 nm, and the green laser was 533 17.5 nm. Using the equation dsin = n, for the green laser; the value of was initially worked out; = tan-1(16mm/300mm) = 3.05 Next, as n in this instance is 1, we can simplify the equation to dsin = d = (10-3/100 lines/mm) = 10-5 m Therefore, = 10-5 x sin(3.05) = 5.33 x 10-7 m = 533 nm. Errors: The error in wavelength was worked out firstly by finding max and min. Then, these values were used to find max and min. Finally, the error is (max - min) 2; i.e. = best (max - min) 2

max and min:

max = tan-1(dark fringe max/distance of screen min) min = tan-1(dark fringe min/distance of screen max)

Using that to find max and min: e.g. max = 550 nm and min = 515 nm; (550 515) 2 = 17.5 nm.

Pawat Silawattakun (G) February 10th, 2013 Charterhouse - Dr Lancefield

Single Slit Diffraction: The value of b was found to be 0.31 0.0035 mm. To work this out, this distance from one bright spot to another was measured; this distance is n, which is 1.5. Using bsin = n, finding the angle , the value was tan-1(61.5mm/2000mm) = 1.76. The maximum and minimum angles were worked out using the same method as in the diffraction grating experiment.

Youngs Double Slit: The value of the distance between two slits was measured in this experiment and was found to be 0.703 0.083 mm. For error calculations, the same method was used as the diffraction grating, but the size of the wavelength was fixed at 632.8 nm and dmax and dmin found by the change in sin().

Conclusion: Diffraction Grating The value of the green laser corresponds well with the accepted value of the green laser (530 nm); the errors easily compensate the difference of 3 nm. The accepted value of the red laser, however, was 632.8; this value is quite far off the measured value. The problem could only be to do with the initial measurements the only other explanation is that the particular red laser that was used may have had a different wavelength from the other red lasers. In that case, for future experiments, using different laser sources may give a more reliable answer to the wavelength of the red laser.

Comparison of Double Slit and Single Slit In the single slit experiment, the bright fringes were very large, especially at n=0. This is because there is less chance of destructive interference. Compared to the double slit, a one wavelength difference in path difference causes destructive interference in the single slit, because from each edge of the slit, the wavelength differs by of a wavelength. In the double slit, a one wavelength difference in path difference causes constructive interference as the wavelengths match up. There is a connection between the bright and dark spots; the light is more focused as a result of neighbouring wavelengths being effectively cancelled out more easily.

Pawat Silawattakun (G) February 10th, 2013 Charterhouse - Dr Lancefield

Fig 1

Fig 1 shows the comparison of patterns between the two experiments. As can be seen, the maximum points can never exceed one another; this is because the point where the waves are perfectly in phase are the bright spots, and they cannot be more perfectly in phase, because they would begin to go out of phase again. The dark fringes in the double slit diffraction pattern within the region of n=0 of the single slit diffraction pattern results from the larger chance of destructive interference in the double slit which causes dark fringes. In conclusion, the experiments were a success; the main source of error was the measurement on the white screen this issue is difficult to solve because of the small lengths that have to be dealt with. Another improvement could be to include for example the values of n=2, n=3, and n=4 to the calculations, instead of just using the one value of n=1 (or n=1.5 in the single slit) because that single measurement may be unreliable and affect the entire process of calculations.

Acknowledgements: Lab Partners: Jenny Burrowes, Christopher Peattie Beak: Dr Lancefield

References: [1] Advanced Physics, Chapter 20 Physical Optics, pp340 344 [2] [3] (Fig 1)