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December 5, 2012

These notes are not intended to be exhaustive. They provide the mathematical steps in the derivation of various interference and diﬀraction results. Further details about the physics of interference can be found in your favorite introductory physics book. Interference is a phenomena that occurs when periodic functions with diﬀerent phases are added. If two periodic functions with equal amplitudes are added, they will interfere destructively to produce a zero when their phase diﬀerence is an odd integer multiple of π , and they will interfere constructively to produce a maximum when their phase diﬀerence is and even integer multiple of π . This result is most easily seen in the complex representation of the periodic functions. Consider two functions E1 = E0 eiφ1 and E2 = E0 eiφ2 with the same amplitude E0 but diﬀerent phases φ1 and φ2 . The sum of these functions is E = E1 + E2 = E0 (eiφ1 + eiφ2 ) = E0 eiφ1 (1 + ei∆φ ), (1) where ∆φ = φ2 − φ1 . Thus, E = 0 when the phase diﬀerence ∆φ = (2m + 1)π , where m is an integer and |E | = 2E0 when ∆φ = 2mπ , where m is an integer: ∆φ = (2m + 1)π (destructive) ∆φ = 2mπ, (constructive). (2)

2 when there is constructive interference. This is twice the Note that the intensity, I = |E |2 is 4E0 sum of the intensities of the individual functions. An alternative representation of this equation is useful. Deﬁne φ = (φ1 + φ2 )/2 ∆φ = φ2 − φ1 . (3)

Then φ2 = φ + ∆φ/2; and E = E0 eiφ (e−i∆φ/2 + ei∆φ/2 ) = 2E0 eiφ cos(∆φ/2). The physical ﬁeld is the real part of this: ReE = 2E0 cos φ cos(∆φ/2). (6) (5) φ1 = φ − (∆φ/2), (4)

This is just the equation we encountered in our study of beats. We will consider a number of examples in which periodic functions (waves) with diﬀerent phases are added together with resultant constructive and destructive interference to produce maxima and minima (which could be zero) in intensities. 1

. Thus ∆φ = k (r2 − r1 ) = (2π/λ)∆r. Consider a point P = (D. and the path length diﬀerence for an observation point P at (D. The electric ﬁeld from the two slits are then respectively E1 = E0 eik(r1 −ct) ≡ E0 eiφ1 E2 = E0 eik(r2 −ct) ≡ E0 eiφ2 . (destructive) 2 ∆r = d sin θ = mλ (constructive). If D ≫ d. y ) at an angle θ = tan−1 (y/D) from the center of the two slits is ∆r = d sin θ ≈ d y . and the intensity resulting from the addition of the two waves will have interference maxima and minima. @ Figure 1: Schematic of diﬀraction from two very narrow slits. the light rays arriving at P from the two slits are approximately parallel. (10) The intensity of the disturbance measured at P is proportional to ) ( yd 2 2 2 2 (11) I = EE ∗ = 4E0 cos2 (∆φ/2) = 4E0 cos2 (k ∆r/2) = 4E0 cos2 (πd sin θ/λ) ≈ 4E0 cos2 π λD 2 . y ) on the observation screen a distance D from the plane of the slits as shown in Fig. 1 ∆r = d sin θ = (m + )λ. (7) where k = 2π/λ with λ the wavelength of the disturbance. the two waves will have diﬀerent phases. The path length to a screen is diﬀerent for the light originating at the two slits. Light passes through the slits and is observed on a screen far away. i.e. the phase of the wave has the same value at the two slits. (8) where ∆r = r2 − r1 is the path length diﬀerence. There is destructive interference when ∆φ = (2m + 1)π = (2π/λ)∆r and constructive interference when ∆φ = 2mπ = (2π/λ)∆r.2 H O @ G IE G H . Since plane wave phases are constant on planes perpendicular to the direction of propagation. The distance from slit 1 to P is r1 and the distance from slit 2 to P is r2 . Since the phase depends on path length. Each slit acts like a source radiating isotropically into a cylinder. Young’s Double Slit experiment A screen with two narrow slits separated by a distance d is illuminated on the left with a plane with a propagation direction perpendicular to the plane of the slits. 1. D (9) where the last result for holds for θ ≈ sin θ ≈ tan θ ≪ 1.

If we consider slits of ﬁnite width. however.e. the path diﬀerence between light rays from neighboring sources reaching a detector P at angle θ is (a/N ) sin θ.. the interval between maxima or minima of the intensity is λ λD y ∆ sin θ = ⇒ ∆y = for ≪ 1.. . In the blow-up. one has to worry about interference of propagating in directions that are not parallel.. and each is treated as a source of a spherical wave. we have to worry about the fact that rays emanating from diﬀerent parts of a slit have diﬀerent path lengths. As the ﬁgure shows. and the pattern is more complicated. ..P y a θ D θ 0 (a/N) sin θ a/N N-1 Blow up of slit Figure 2: Schematic of diﬀraction from a single slit.(N − 1)). the Fresnel limit. We have E0 = N −1 ∑ j =0 ˜j = N E ˜ E (13) 3 . (12) D d D Single-slit Diﬀraction In the double-slit experiment just discussed. N − 1. The centers of the segments are located at position sj = [j + (1/2)]∆y for j = 0. We begin by modeling the slit as N sources located at the centers of the segments (i. 2 . the slit of width a is divided into N segments of length ∆s = a/N . and the minimum intensity at destrucThe maximum intensity at constructive interference is 4E0 tive interference is 0. and divide it up into N segments of equal width ∆s = a/N . and we consider the case D ≫ a. and the phase diﬀerence is ∆φ = k (a/N ) sin θ. In the small angle limit. Let ˜j be the the amplitude that reaches a point P directly in front of the slit (θ = 0) be E0 ... Since all the path lengths are the same when when θ = 0. we assumed that the slits were so narrow that there was no path diﬀerence in light rays emerging from them. This is the limit of Fraunhofer diﬀraction. When D ≈ a. at positions sj = [j + (1/2)]∆s for j = 0. Consider a single slit of width a. Let E amplitude from source j at position ja/N from the top of the slit.

The phase of the and E disturbances arriving from the top of the slit is φ0 = kr. Diﬀraction grating A diﬀraction grating has N narrowly spaced slits. We could do the above sum directly. where r is the distance from the top of the slit to P . where m is an integer. and the sum becomes an integral with lower limit 0 and upper limit N (a/N ) = a: ( ) ∫ a ′ ( ) ds ik sin θs′ 1 iφ0 ika sin θ i(φ0 +(ka/2) sin θ) sin[(ka/2) sin θ ] E = E0 e = E0 e e − 1 = E0 e a ika sin θ [(ka/2) sin θ] 0 (16) and the intensity is )2 ( 2 sin[(ka/2) sin θ ] .) The phase diﬀerence between adjacent slits is ∆φ = kd sin θ. 4 (19) . Equation (17) says that the intensity I (θ) is appreciable only for θ between the two ﬁrst two minima on either side of θ = 0. (This would be d = a/N in the diﬀraction calculation. Now consider the amplitude received at P when θ is not zero. This deﬁnes a width for sin θ: ∆ sin θ ≈ 2π/ka. which to a ﬁrst approximation we can take as being so narrow that diﬀraction eﬀects from individual slits are not important. Then ∆s′ = (∆j/N )a since ∆j = 1. where k = ω/c. Let d be the separation between slits. (18) It has further maxima approximately midway between these minima. i. Thus E= N −1 ∑ j =0 (E0 /N )ei[φ0 +j ∆φ)] = N −1 ∑ j =0 (E0 /N )ei[φ0 +j (ka sin θ/N )] (14) is the amplitude reaching P . but we are really interested in taking the continuum limit in which N → ∞. We therefore deﬁne s′ = ja/N and φ0 to be the phase at j = 0.˜ = E0 /N . (17) as expected.e. for (ka/2) sin θ between −π and π . Thus E = eiφ0 E0 N −1 ∑ j =0 N −1 ∑ ∆j i(k sin θ(ja/N )) ∆s′ i(k sin θs′ ) e = eiφ0 E0 e . The arithmetic for calculating the amplitude of a disturbance arriving at P is similar to that just done for diﬀraction from a single slit. but its width must be ∆ky = k ∆ sin θ = 2π/∆y = 2π/a. The intensity [Eq. (17) I (θ) ∼ |E |2 = E0 [(ka/2) sin θ] This function has a maximum at θ = 0 and zeroes at (ka/2) sin θ = mπ (m ̸= 0). The average value of ky is 0. The phase of the disturbances from the j th source is φj = φ0 + j ∆φ. (3) Diﬀraction and the Uncertainty Principle Diﬀraction is really a manifestation of the uncertainty principle ∆ky ∆s ≈ 2π . N a j =0 (15) Now when we take the limit N → ∞. The bandwidth theorem says ∆y ∆ky ≈ 2π . The slit of width a constrains the beam width in the y -direction at x = 0 to be ∆y = a. or equivalently at a sin θ = mλ. ∆s → 0. (17)] from a single slit is shown in Fig. This expression agrees with that derived form Eq.

±2. This function has its largest maximum at x = 0 and zeros at x/π = ±1.. @IE G G @ @IE G Figure 4: Schematic of diﬀraction from a multislit grating 5 . ..IE N N & $ " N ! ! F Figure 3: The function (sin(x)/x)2 plotted as a function of x/π ..

when N ∆φ/2 = pπ . It is straightforward to generalize the technique developed for a single slit to calculate the intensity for diﬀraction gratings with ﬁnite width slits. where p is an integer not equal to an integer times N . where m is an integer. The fact that the maxima must lie between minima excludes p = 1. N 2 times larger than the intensity Thus. The width of the central peak whose height is N 2 is the interval between ∆φ = −2π/N and ∆φ = 2π/N or δφ = 2πd 4π 2λ 4π ⇒ δ sin θ = ⇒ δ sin θ ≈ δθ = . the intensity at the principal maxima is Imax = N 2 E0 from a single slit. ... The value of I at these values of ∆φ can be obtained by setting ∆φ = 2mπ + 2α and taking the limit α → 0.. the width decreases as 1/N . sin(N ∆φ/2) = 0 as well.and the amplitude reaching P is E = E0 eiφ0 = E0 eiφ0 N −1 ∑ n=0 ein(∆φ) = E0 eiφ0 N −1 ∑ eik(nd sin θ) 1− − eiN ∆φ/2 ) iφ0 = E e 0 1 − ei∆φ ei∆φ/2 (e−i∆φ/2 − ei∆φ/2 ) ( ) sin N ∆φ/2 = E0 ei(φ0 +(N −1)∆φ/2) .e. when ∆φ/2 = mπ . the intensity is ( I = 4I0 sin(α) α )2 cos2 ∆φ/2. sin ∆φ/2 eiN ∆φ Thus I ∼ |E | = 2 2 E0 n=0 iN e ∆φ/2 (e−iN ∆φ/2 (20) ( sin N ∆φ/2 sin ∆φ/2 )2 . 2N − 1. When this condition is satisﬁed. Double slit and grating with ﬁnite width slits If slits have a ﬁnite width. (25) 6 . i. light rays from diﬀerent parts of the each slit will interfere to produce diﬀraction patterns similar to that of a single slit. The secondary maxima are near the points between minima where sin(N ∆φ/2) reaches 1.. i. 2N + 1. The intensity from a multislit grating is 0 shown in Fig.. at ∆φ = pπ/N . α→0 (22) 2 . Then ( α→0 lim sin N ∆φ/2 sin ∆φ/2 )2 = lim α→0 ( (−1)mN sin N α (−1)m sin α )2 = lim (N α)2 /α2 = N 2 . i. For N large. 5. the intensity of the ﬁrst subsidiary peak at p = 3 is 2 (1/ sin(3π/2N ))2 ≈ (2/3π )2 E 2 = 0. There are N − 1 zeros and N − 2 subsidiary maxima between each principal maximum. (21) The intensity reaches a principal maximum whenever sin(∆φ/2) = 0.e. and thus the resolution. (24) where I0 is the intensity maximum that would result if there were only one slit and α = ka sin θ/2 = πa sin θ/λ. N λ N dN (23) Thus. For two slits of width a separated with centers separated by a distance d. The intensity is zero whenever sin(N ∆φ/2) = 0 and ∆φ ̸= 2mπ where m is an integer.e.045N −2 I I1 = E0 max .. increases as as 1/N as N increases. i.e. where p is an odd integer.

7 shows the full intensity. Thus.. This funciton has principal max at x = 0. These planes reﬂect light (or waves). X-ray diﬀraction Crystals consist of atoms (or groups of atoms) located on sites of a periodic lattice (such as a cubic lattice). The intensity from an N slit diﬀraction grating of slits of width a separated by d is ( ) [ ] sin α 2 sin(N ∆φ/2) 2 I = I0 α sin(∆φ/2) ) ( ) ( sin[(ka/2) sin θ] 2 sin[N (kd/2) sin θ] 2 = I0 (ka/2) sin θ sin[(kd/2) sin θ] [ ]2 [ ] sin((a/d)∆φ/2) sin(N ∆φ/2) 2 = I0 (a/d)∆φ/2 sin(∆φ/2) (26) The ﬁrst factor in this equation is the form factor of an individual slit. a/d = 0. Figure 6 shows both the form factor and the structure factor for N = 5. . 3.B F Figure 5: Diﬀraction pattern for a two-slit and a-5 slit diﬀraction grating plotted as a function of x = ∆φ/2π . The single slit pattern causes the peaks of the multislit pattern to have vanishing amplitude at large angle. and the second is the structure factor of the array of slits. Between each principal maximum there are N − 1 zeros and N − 2 secondary maxima as can be seen for the N = 5 case shown.25 and a/d = 0. Reﬂections from diﬀerent planes add coherently to produce diﬀraction patterns. There is constructive interference when the diﬀerence in path length of rays reﬂected from neighboring planes is and integral multiple of the wavelength.. ±2. and Fig.. The bright spots in 7 . respectively.1. Figure 10 shows a schematic of rays refelected from diﬀerent planes separated by a distance d. This structure involving a form factor multiplied by a structure factor is quite general. ±1. It applies in particular to scattering from solids and is critical to understanding X-ray scattering patterns. the ﬁnite width of the slits introduces a prefactor to the inﬁnitely narrow multislit pattern that is identical to the diﬀraction pattern of a single slit as shown in Fig. which consists of periodic planes of attoms.5. Figures 8 and 9 show the full intensity for N = 5 and a/d = 0.1 1 # # # # . This is called Bragg scattering.

5.5 times the distance d between the slits.5 20 15 10 5 Φ 4 2 2 4 2Π Figure 7: A plot of the full intensity of Eq.I 25 20 15 10 5 Φ 4 2 2 4 2Π Figure 6: This ﬁgure shows the form factor (multiplied by 25 to facilitate presentation) and the structure factor for a 5-slit diﬀraction grating with width a of the slits equal to 0. N 5. whereas the structure factor has a periodically repeated structure with peaks of height scaling as N 2 = 25 at ∆φ = 2πm or sin θ = m(λ/d). Note the small oscillations in the structure factor between principal max. 6. 8 . The form factor vanishes at ∆φ = (2mπ )(d/a) = 4πm. a d I 25 0. The intensity falls to zero at the zeros of the structure factor (∆φ = 4mπ ) as it must. (26) for N = 5 and a/d = 0. It is the product of the form factor and structure factor shown in Fig.

1 20 15 10 5 Φ 20 10 10 20 2Π Figure 9: A plot of Eq. a d 25 0. N 5.25 20 15 10 5 10 5 0 5 10 Figure 8: A plot of Eq. Now the subsidiary string of peaks between ∆φ = 20π and ∆φ = 40π and others like it can clearly be seen. The zeros at in the structure factor now occur at ∆φ = 20πm.01. a d I 25 0. 9 .25.N 5. (26) for N = 5 and a/d = 0. (26) for N = 5 and a/d = 0. The zeros at in the structure factor now occur at ∆φ = 8πm.

Incoming radiation reﬂects from adjacent planes and constructively interferes. Thus. X-ray scattering is our most powerful probe of the structure of matter. there can be no Bragg scattering unless λ < 2d. It is through x-ray scattering that we know the structure of silicon crystal. Figure 11: This ﬁgures shows diﬀerent planes that atoms in a periodic lattice can lie on. If the lattice spacing d is of order 1 Angstrom (10−8 cm). there will be Bragg reﬂections at many angles. Thus. atoms line on may diﬀerent planes as shown in Fig. DNA. which corresponds to backscattering (Fig. Thus the condition for constructive interference is 2d sin θ = mλ. 10 shows that the angle between the reﬂected ray and the incident ray is 2θ rather than θ). and proteins.) There will be Bragg peaks at larger values of θ arising from planes with smaller spacing. 11. The smallest angle at which there will be Bragg scattering occurs from planes of atoms that have the maixmum separation dmax permitted in the lattice. The angle between the outgoing beam and the reﬂected (or scattered) beam is 2θ. This is the wavelength of x-rays. the diﬀraction pattern produced by this interference is are called Bragg peaks. θ @ θ @ IE θ Figure 10: Schematic representation of Bragg scattering from crystal planes. λ must be less than 2 Angstroms for reﬂections to occur. dmax is simply the lattice spacing a. (In a cubic lattice. The maximum value that sin θ can have is 1 at θ = π/2. (27) In a crystal. 10 .

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