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# Michelson

Interferometer
Leanne Garrity
200836248
Second Year Physics Laboratory, University of
Strathclyde, Glasgow
Abstract:
The purpose of the Michelson Interferometer is
firstly to find the wavelength of the mercury
green filtered line. In the second part of the
experiment it is to determine the fringe visibility
and to measure the distance between the
maximum and minimum fringe visibility, this can
then be used to calculate the difference in
wavelength between the two yellow spectral
lines.
The wavelength of the mercury green line was
found to be:
λ= (4±100) ×10¯⁷m

## This doesn’t compare favourably to the accepted

value of:
λ=546nm 
The difference in wavelength of the yellow
spectral lines was found to be:
Δλ= (0.02±120) ×10¯⁷m

## This value compares favourable to the accepted

value of:
Δλ= 0.02×10¯⁷m 
The uncertainty in both the experiments is very
high; this was due to how the experiment was
carried out, as the fringes were counted by the
human eye instead of a counting device.
However the second experiment was a success
as apart from the high uncertainty, the calculated
value was close to the accepted value.

Introduction:

## In 1881, Albert Abraham Michelson invented a

device called the interferometer. The
interferometer uses interference fringes to
measure distances in terms of wavelength with
great precision.  The interferometer is still an
important optical instrument to this day, as it is
used in physical optics, spectroscopy and laser
physics. 
In this experiment, the Michelson Interferometer
is used to measure the wavelength of a mercury
green filtered line and the difference in
wavelength between two yellow spectral lines.
The Michelson Interferometer causes interference
by splitting a beam of light into two parts. These
two beams will appear to be reflected at the
surfaces of both mirrors, these mirrors are
separated by a distance d.  By finding this
distance the wavelength can then be calculated.
The experiment clearly demonstrates how using
the Michelson Interferometer, the wavelength of
the light can be calculated by finding out the
distance between two mirrors.

Theory:

## The wavelength of the mercury green line was

calculated when the two light beams interfere to
give a maximum intensity, this equation shows
this:

λ= 2dcosθ/n (1)

## Where λ= wavelength (m)

n= number order
θ= angle between mirrors
d= separation between fringes

## When measuring the distance between mirror

positions d1 and d2 and when only two
wavelengths are present, Δλ can be calculated
using this equation:

## Where λ= accepted wavelength value

d2-d1= the distance between the
mirror

Experimental Method:
Figure 1: shows the arrangement of the
interferometer 
Movable mirror is M1 and Fixed mirror is M2.

## The experiment was set up as shown in Figure 1.

Firstly in experiment one, the mercury lamp was
switched on and the green filter removed. The
mirrors had to be parallel with one another, so
when looking into the beam splitter there where
two images of a small cross, the mirror M2 was
adjusted so that there was only one image of the
small cross, therefore they were parallel. A green
filter was placed into the holder
until interference fringes were seen, M1 was
adjusted again so that concentric circular fringes
were seen. From an experiment before this, part
(a) of the Michelson Interferometer, the zero
order position was found. Mirror M1 was moved
away from this zero order position until a clear
set of concentric fringes were found. From this
M1 was moved so that the centre of the fringe
pattern would go through a maximum one
hundred times, the distance that M1 moved was
then recorded. This was repeated several times.

## Experiment two was set up again as shown in

Figure 1. This time however the green filter was
removed and replaced by a yellow filter. From
the mercury lamp, the yellow filter passes a
strong pair of spectral lines of mean wavelength
578nm.  M1 was the moved so that the fringe
visibility went from a minimum until the next
minimum position, this then was (d2-d1) and a
value was recorded. This was repeated several
times.

## Mirror M1 is pushed forward by a lever driven by

a micrometer; therefore a movement of 5dmm of
the micrometer causes the mirror to move dmm.


Experimental Results:

## Results for experiment 1:

Original reading for ‘zero order position’ =
8.49×10¯³m
Table 1: Distance M1 moved through 100
maxima
Zero Order Reading on Difference (d1-
Reading Micrometer d2) (×10¯³m)
(d2) (×10¯³m)
(d1) (×10¯³m)
8.49 8.36 0.13
8.49 8.39 0.10
8.49 8.37 0.12
8.49 8.40 0.09
8.49 8.41 0.08

## Average d2= 8.39×10¯³m

Average difference= 0.104×10¯³m
Therefore taking the ×5 lever on the mirror
translation into account:
d1-d2= (8.49-8.39)×10¯³m
=0.10×10¯³m
d= 0.10×10¯³m/5
= 0.02×10¯³m
Results for experiment 2:
Table 2: Distance M1 was moved so that the
fringe visibility went from a minimum position to
the next.
d1 (×10¯³m) d2 (×10¯³m) Difference (d2-
d1) (×10¯³m)
8.30 8.72 0.42
8.30 8.68 0.38
8.30 8.72 0.42
8.30 8.73 0.43
8.30 8.73 0.43

## Average d2= 8.72×10¯³m

Therefore taking the ×5 lever on the mirror
translation into account:
d1= 8.30×10¯³m/5
= 1.66×10¯³m
d2= 8.72×10¯³m/5
= 1.74×10¯³m
d2-d1= (1.74-1.66)×10¯³m
= 0.08×10¯³m
Analysis:
Experiment one:
By using equation (1):
λ= 2×(0.02×10¯³m)×1/100
= 400nm
This was where d= 0.02×0¯³m
Θ= 0°
n= 100 fringes
λ=?
Experiment two:
By using equation (2):
Δλ= (578nm)²/2(1.74-1.66)×10¯³m
= 2nm
This was where λ= 578nm
d2= 1.74×10¯³m
d1= 1.66×10¯³m
For experiment one, the wavelength of the
mercury green line was found to be:
λ= (4±100) ×10¯⁷m
For experiment two, the wavelength between the
two yellow spectral lines was found to be:
Δλ= (0.02±120) ×10¯⁷m
For both experiments the uncertainties are really
high this was due to the way the experiment was
carried out, as the counting was done by the
human eye.
Discussion:
In experiment one, a value was obtained for the
wavelength of the mercury green line to be:
λ= (4±100) ×10¯⁷m
whereas the accepted value is λ= 546nm 
The value that was calculated was too far off
from the accepted value. The large uncertainty is
due to the way that the experiment was carried
out; by counting the fringes with the human eye
and that the room was crowded, made it difficult
to concentrate on the fringes. To decrease the
uncertainty and make the experiment more
accurate, a more larger number of fringes could
have been counted.
From experiment two, a value for the difference
in wavelength between two yellow spectral lines
was obtained to be:
Δλ= (0.02±120) ×10¯⁷m
While the accepted value is 0.02×10¯⁷m 
This was a more successful experiment but the
uncertainty again was very high but as the
calculated value was close to the accepted value,
the experiment is deemed successful. This
experiment could have been improved by using a
more suitable counting device to count the
fringes.
Conclusion:
The wavelength of the mercury green line was
found to be (4±100) ×10¯⁷m which didn’t
compare favourably with the accepted value of
546nm.
The difference in wavelength of the two yellow
spectral lines was found to be (0.02±120)
×10¯⁷m which from aside the large uncertainty
compared favourably with the accepted value of
0.02×10¯⁷m.
Acknowledgements:
I would just like to thank both my lab partners
Lisa Toms and Gordon Hitchell for there insight
into this experiment.
References:
 H. G. Kuhn, Longmans, Atomic Spectra,
Second Edition, 1969, 2nd Year Lab Scripts,
(Michelson Interferometer (b) Pg 5)
 Harris Benson, University Physics, Revised
Edition, 1995 37(771)
 TPJH, Second Year Lab Scripts, 2008,
Michelson Interferometer (b) Pg 2
 http://hyperphysics.phy-
astr.gsu.edu/HBASE/PHYOPT/michel.html
 TPJH, Second Year Lab Scripts, 2008,
Michelson Interferometer (b) Pg 4
 TPJH, Second Year Lab Scripts, 2008,
Michelson Interferometer (a) Pg 3
Appendix:
To work out the uncertainties in the values the
equation for the best estimate of the standard
deviation of the mean was used.