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Wave Optics I

NPTEL Biophotonics 1

Wave Optics

We saw in the last lecture that the phenomena of reflection and

refraction could be explained by treating light as a ray obeying the

laws of reflection and refraction at interfaces. This treatment is

referred to as geometrical optics.

explained by geometric optics such as interference of light,

diffraction patterns and so on which required the treatment of light

as a wave.

the wave treatment of light

NPTEL Biophotonics 2

Overview

In this lecture you will learn,

The wave description of light

Meaning of quantities such as wavelength, wavenumber,

frequency, phase, wavefront etc.

Superposition of waves

Interferometers

Beam solutions of wave equation

NPTEL Biophotonics 3

Wave Equation and Wave Solutions

A wave is an oscillatory disturbance propagating

through a medium. The simplest case is when a wave

propagates through a homogenous and isotropic

medium where the wave equation in one dimension can

be written as,

2u 1 2u

= 2 2

x 2

c t

written as, u(x,t) = Asin(kx t + ),

NPTEL Biophotonics 4

Wave Solutions

Note that the solution is a function of space and time.

Oscillations in space and time means there are two kinds

of frequencies, spatial frequency, which is related to the

wavelength, and the temporal frequency which is related

to the period of the oscillations

NPTEL Biophotonics 5

Wave Solution

The simple wave solution u(x,t) = Asin(kx t + ), has

the following attributes

at all points in space and time.

possible

it is related to the wavelength , as k = 2/

NPTEL Biophotonics 6

Wave Solutions

The quantity, w is referred to as the angular frequency

and it is related to the (temporal frequency) , as = 2

related to each other through the sped of the wave as, c =

/k

NPTEL Biophotonics 7

Wave Solution

importantly when one considers two waves u1 and u2,

the phase difference 1 2, determines the alignment of

the peaks and troughs of the two waves. If they are

aligned the amplitudes add up, if they are completely

misaligned the amplitudes cancel each other.

related to the square of the amplitude of wave function,

i.e. I(x,t) ~ A2

NPTEL Biophotonics 8

Wave-fronts and Propagation

light sources produce an isotropic radiation pattern which can

be characterized by spherical wavefronts. This means that

along the surface of the sphere the phase remains constant.

However, as we see from the diagram, sufficiently far away

from the light source, the wave can be assumed to be a plane

wave, i.e. all points in a plane normal to the direction of

propagation (indicated by the blue arrows) have the same

phase.

NPTEL Biophotonics 9

Propagation in a Medium Other than Air

The speed of light in vacuum is denoted by c. The

wavevector and the frequency are related by the speed of

light as c = /k. We know that when light propagates

through a medium with refractive index n, the speed of

light becomes v = c/n. Later on we will see that the

frequency of the light does not change when it changes

the medium of propagation. This means that the

wavevector and hence the wavelength should change. In

a medium of refractive index n, the wavevector is k =

nk0, where k0 is the wavevector in vacuum. Alternately,

one can say that the wavelength is = 0/n in a medium

of refractive index n. Here 0 is the wavelength in

vacuum.

NPTEL Biophotonics 10

Superposition of Waves

The wave equation written down in the previous slide is

a linear equation, which means that is u1 and u2 are

solutions, then u1 + u2 is also a solution. This solution is

called a superposition of waves u1 and u2 and leads to

the phenomena of interference.

When two or more waves co-propagate, the propagation

can be considered to be the superposition of all the co-

propagating waves. This phenomena is called wave

interference.

NPTEL Biophotonics 11

Superposition of Waves

As pointed out in the previous slide superposition of

two waves is determined by the phase difference, so let

us write u1 = A1sin(kx t) and u2 = A2 sin(kx t + ),

where is the phase difference between u1 and u2.

The superposition of u1 and u2 = usup can be written as,

usup = Asupsin(kx t + s) where the new amplitude

is,

Asup2 = A12 + A22 + 2A1A2cos(), in terms of intensity

this is

Isup = I1 + I2 + 2I1I2cos()

NPTEL Biophotonics 12

Interference Signal

The superposed intensity derived in the previous slide

will be a sinusoidal function in terms of the phase

difference. It will attain a maximum value of (a1 + a2)2

when phase difference is 0 or even multiples of and

minimum of (a1 a2)2 when the phase difference is odd

multiples of . The former case is called constructive

interference and the latter is destructive interference.

Specifically when a1 = a2, destructive interference results

in total attenuation of the wave, i.e. there is no resultant

wave.

NPTEL Biophotonics 13

Interference Signal

How can we produce two waves with a phase difference

from a single light source? We do this by creating optical

delays. Imagine a wave u2 which has travelled an extra

distance of d with respect to the wave u1, then from the

wave solution we see that u2 will have a phase difference

of kd with respect to u1, where k is the wave vector.

NPTEL Biophotonics 14

Optical Phase Difference

Having two waves travel different distances is a way to

create a phase difference between two waves. Another

way is for the two waves to go through media with

different refractive indices. As the speed of propagation is

different in different media, the two waves will acquire a

phase difference as they propagate through the media.

The phase difference in this case can be written as =

k0(n2 n1)d. Here k0 is the wave vector in vacuum, n2 and

n1 are the refractive indices of the media and d is the

distance of propagation.

NPTEL Biophotonics 15

Optical Phase Contrast

The phase difference produced as mentioned above is

useful in a form of imaging called phase contrast or

interference contrast. When object of interest is not

absorbing, there is no contrast from the surrounding. But

the phase could be different creating a contrast.

NPTEL Biophotonics 16

Youngs Double Slit Experiment

In the early 19th century, Thomas Young

conducted a famous experiment that

conclusively demonstrated the wave nature

of light. He created a setup as shown in the

diagram where a pinhole acts as a point

source of light and this is divided by two

pinholes or double slits. As shown by the

rays, different points along the screen have

different phase differences between the

waves because they are travelling different

distances. Young was able to obtain an

interference pattern using this experiment

which confirmed the wave picture. In some

areas where the phase difference was odd

multiples of , there were dark fringes due

to destructive interference.

NPTEL Biophotonics 17

Analysis of Double Slit Interference Pattern

The path difference between the two waves

as represented by the lines is approximately D

S

equal to SP where the dashed line SP is

normal to the light path SD. From geometry,

P

SP = dsin, where d is the distance between

the slits (pinholes) S

NPTEL Biophotonics 18

Analysis of Double Slit Interference

Therefore, the phase difference

between SD and SD is kdsin. As

we saw before, when the phase

difference is an even multiple of ,

there is constructive interference

and therefore that spot is bright.

When kdsin is an odd multiple of

, then there is destructive

interference and therefore that

spot is dark. For intermediate

phase differences the intensity

gradually varies from bright to

dark. By using k = 2/, we can

write the angular positions of

minima min as,

sinmin = (m + )(/d)

NPTEL Biophotonics 19

The Idea of Coherence

Why is it that it took till the early part of 19th century for

the observation of interference effect?

The answer lies in the idea of coherence. When we

superposed two waves with a phase difference f, we

treated the wavevector k as being the same at all points

in space and time, similarly we treated f also to be the

same at all points in space and time. What is k was a

random function of space and time? Then we wouldnt

be able to get a nice relation for the superposed wave.

The phase difference between the waves would then be

also a random function of space or time and the

interference effect would get averaged out.

NPTEL Biophotonics 20

Coherence

So to observe, interference effect there should be a fixed

relationship between the phases of the interfering waves.

This uniformity in phases, which is required to observe

interference is called coherence. If there is no fixed phase

relationship between co-propagating waves, such a

radiation of light is called incoherent radiation. In other

words, the wavefronts which are regular spheres or

planes or other shapes change randomly.

NPTEL Biophotonics 21

Coherence

Coherence can be spatial as well as temporal. An incident

radiation can be said to be spatially and temporally

coherent when the phase difference between two points at

any given time is a function of their relative separation

and time. When the phase difference between these points

at any given time can be expresses as a function of their

relative separation but changes randomly at different time

while maintaining the spatial relationship, the radiation is

spatially coherent but temporally incoherent. Similarly

one could have situations where an incident radiation is

temporally coherent but spatially incoherent.

NPTEL Biophotonics 22

Coherence

In practical situations, there is a coherence length within

which we can well approximate the radiation to be

spatially coherent and a coherence time within which we

can assume temporal coherence.

produce incoherent light which makes it difficult to

observe interference effects requiring large coherence

lengths of incident radiation. Young solved this problem

by having slits in his experimental setup.

NPTEL Biophotonics 23

Coherence in Double Slit Experiment

Young used an incoherent light source for his

experiment. We know this because there were no

coherent light sources (lasers) at his time. Then how did

he get the necessary coherence to observe the

interference fringes? He passed the incident radiation

through a small pinhole, this collecting a very small area

of the radiating wavefront within which the waves are

almost coherent and then he passed this nearly coherent

light through the two pinholes which act as two spatially

coherent light sources producing a fixed phase

difference at the observation screen causing fringes to

appear.

NPTEL Biophotonics 24

Interferometers

The phenomena of interference can be used as an image

contrast mechanism as described earlier and discussed

in detail later. In addition to that it can be used as a

metrological tool, i.e in the measurement of small

distances and refractive index changes.

NPTEL Biophotonics 25

Interferometers

Recall that the intensity changes from maximum to

minimum when phase difference changes by . This is

equivalent to a displacement of /2 and as is ~ 500 nm,

interferometry by measuring fringe shifts can be used to

measure sub-nm displacements and fine changes in

refractive index (because it contributes to phase

difference). Therefore it serves as an excellent optical

measurement tool for applications such as characterizing

the thickness of thin films (where the wave reflected

from the top surface of the film interferes with the wave

reflected from the substrate on which the film is

deposited)

NPTEL Biophotonics 26

Beam Solutions

We write down the simplest wave equation which is also

called a plane wave solution because all points in a plane

have the same phase in the 3D version of the solution we

wrote down. However other solutions are possible and

are more applicable to practical situations. In practice

light beams are finite.

1 2u 2 2 2

u= 2 2

2

= 2+ 2+ 2

2

c t x y z

give by,

NPTEL Biophotonics 27

Beam Solutions

In cylindrical coordinates, under the paraxial

approximation (i.e. propagation direction close to the

optical axis), one obtains a paraxial helmholtz equation

which admits beam-like solutions. These are solutions

that describe waves which propagate along a given

direction, say z-axis, and have a certain intensity and

phase profile across the radial direction (i.e. across the

beam)

NPTEL Biophotonics 28

Some Types of Beams

The simplest beam solution is a

gaussian beam as shown in the

diagram. In a gaussian beam the

intensity is maximum at the center of

the beam and then decreases according

to a gaussian function given by

2r 2

I (r ) = I 0 exp 2

size.

NPTEL Biophotonics 29

Higher Order Beams

Gaussian beams are normally encountered with laser

outputs. It is also possible to have higher order beams

which describe several lobes as we see in the adjoining

diagram.

NPTEL Biophotonics 30

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