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Diffraction and

Jacque Lynn F. Gabayno, Ph.D
Lecture Notes
Department of Physics, Mapua Institute of
Technology, Intramuros Manila
Diffraction Phenomena

Wavelength must be considerably longer

than the dimension of the aperture
The bending of light around an obstacle or barrier.
The optical path difference
between r1 and r2 manifests itself
as intensity variation on a screen a
distance L from an aperture of
width a, i.e.

Intensity Minimum

"r = r2 # r1 = m$
Intensity Maximum
$ 1'
"r = r2 # r1 = & m + )*
! % 2(
Diffraction from a Single Slit
Intensity Maximum: m=0
m: diffraction orders
(bright fringe) m = 0; zeroth diff. order
# 1$ (central maximum)
% m + & ! = a sin "
' 2( m = 1,2,3, ..; higher diff.
Intensity Minimum:
(dark fringe)

m" = asin #
Diffraction pattern (one slit)

m=-2 m=-1 m=1 m=2

m=-3 m=3
Diffraction from a Single Slit
Intensity Distribution

a = 0.5 mm a = 1.0 mm a = 1.5 mm

Diffraction Pattern
The width of the central diffraction order decreases with increasing slit width.
Example: Diffraction from a Single Slit
Light of wavelength 400 nm is incident on a
single slit of width 15 mm. If a screen is placed
2.5 m from the slit, how far is the first minimum
from the central maximum?

a a a a a a
Example: Diffraction from a Single
Calculate the width of the central maximum of a
single slit diffraction pattern if the distance from
the slit to the screen is 2 m, the wavelength is 500
nm and for slit sizes:
a) 0.1 mm, and
b) 0.001 mm.
DEFINITION - the superposition of two or more waves
that meet at a point in space.

The light source should be monochromatic and

coherent light.
Monochromatic a light of single color/
Coherent a light that has the same frequency or

that is in phase permanently.

Constructive Interference (Reinforcement)
When waves from two or more sources arrive at a

point in space in phase, addition of amplitude results.

"r = m !
Destructive Interference (Cancellation)
The total amplitude is zero or cancels out each other

because when two or more waves arrive at a point

in space, they are out of phase.

( 1%
"r = & m + # !
' 2$
Youngs Double-Slit Experiment

At a point P on
the screen,

Intensity is maximum:

m" = d sin #
Intensity is minimum:
# 1$
% m + & ! = d sin "
' 2(
Distance between bright
fringes, y is independent "L m = 0, 1, 2, 3,...
of m, i.e.:
d 10
Intensity Distribution of 2 slits (without diffraction effects)

"L 2 "! #
I = 4 I o cos $ %
d &2'


! "=
The intensity is maximum if the phase difference, , is an integer multiple
of 2 or if dsin is an integer multiple of .
The maximum intensity is 4 times the intensity of! the illumination coming
from one of the two slits. (i.e. Imax = N2Io)
The intensity fringes are evenlyIo -spaced
L/d).coming from one slit
Intensity Distribution of 2 slits (with diffraction effects)

Single slit The number of principal

diffraction order interference maxima within the

" d%
Double slit
n P,max = $2 ' ( 1
interference # a&
Increasing the slit separation d OR
decreasing the slit width a increases
the number of bright (interference)
Intensity Distribution (Multiple Slits)


no diffraction effects Diffraction envelope

N=2 Principal

Real scenario

With increasing number of slits, N, the number of interference (principal

and secondary) fringes also increases.
The number of secondary (interference) maxima within the diffraction
envelop for N-slits are: nS,max = N - 2.
The total number of minima between principal maxima, nmin = N -1.
Example: Diffraction from a Double Slit
A screen is placed 3.0-m from a two-slit setup
with the slits separated by 15-mm. If the
wavelength is 400 nm, how far apart are the bright
Exercises: Diffraction and Interference
1. For a two-slit system, how many interference maxima
will be contained in the central maximum if the slit
separation d is 5 times greater than a?

2. A two-slit pattern is observed with =500 nm. The slit

separation is d = 0.1 mm and width is a.
a) Find a if the 5th interference maximum is at the
same angle as the 1st diffraction minimum.
b) How many bright interference fringes will be
seen in the central diffraction?
Real Diffraction Patterns
(a) (c) (d)


(e) (f) (a) Single Slit

(b) Double Slit
(c) Circular aperture
(d) Optical Fiber
(e) Square aperture
(f) Rectangular aperture
Application: Holography

Application: Michelson*

Surface imaging
Metrology and calibration


*Nobel Prize in Physics, 1907

Exercise 1.
Two coherent point sources S1 and S2 have
same wavelength of 400 nm. The distance of S1
from a point P is 2.4 x 103 nm while that of S2 is
1.4 x 103 nm. Will the waves of the two point
sources interfere constructively or destructively?
Describe the phase difference of the two waves
arriving at P.
Exercise 2.
Laser light at 633 nm falls on a double-slit apparatus with
slit separation of 6.5 m. A screen is placed 0.15 m from
the slits.
What is the separation distance of the adjacent
bright fringes?
Sketch the interference pattern (ignoring
diffraction effects) assuming the slit widths are
very narrow.
What will happen to the interference pattern if
you increase the slit separation?
Exercise 3.
Laser light at 633 nm falls on a double-slit apparatus.
Suppose the slits have widths equal to one-fifth of the slit
Determine the number of bright fringes in the central
bright maximum.
Sketch the diffraction pattern.
Exercise 4.
Consider the diffraction pattern shown in the figure below.
How many slits produced the diffraction pattern?
If the maximum intensity of the pattern is 10 mW/m2,
what is the intensity of the light passing through each
Next topic: Special Relativity
Soon: Quiz #4
Diffraction Patterns: Simulation




a = 16
Normalized Intensity Distribution: Simulation

Slit width
Diffraction Patterns: Simulation



Normalized Intensity Distribution: Simulation
Diffraction Patterns: Simulation
a = .2mm a = .4mm

a = .6mm a = .8mm