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Chapter 27

Interference and the Wave


Nature of Light

AP Learning Objectives
Physical optics
Interference and diffraction
Students should understand the interference and diffraction of
waves, so they can:

Apply the principles of interference to coherent sources in


order to:
Describe the conditions under which the waves reaching
an observation point from two or more sources will all
interfere constructively, or under which the waves from
two sources will interfere destructively.
Determine locations of interference maxima or minima for
two sources or determine the frequencies or wavelengths
that can lead to constructive or destructive interference at
a certain point.
Relate the amplitude produced by two or more sources
that interfere constructively to the amplitude and intensity
produced by a single source.

AP Learning Objectives
Physical optics

Interference and diffraction


Students should understand the interference and diffraction of waves, so they can:

Apply the principles of interference and diffraction to waves that pass through
a single or double slit or through a diffraction grating, so they can:

Sketch or identify the intensity pattern that results when monochromatic


waves pass through a single slit and fall on a distant screen, and describe
how this pattern will change if the slit width or the wavelength of the
waves is changed.

Calculate, for a single-slit pattern, the angles or the positions on a distant


screen where the intensity is zero.

Sketch or identify the intensity pattern that results when monochromatic


waves pass through a double slit, and identify which features of the
pattern result from single-slit diffraction and which from two-slit
interference.

Calculate, for a two-slit interference pattern, the angles or the positions on


a distant screen at which intensity maxima or minima occur.

Describe or identify the interference pattern formed by a diffraction


grating, calculate the location of intensity maxima, and explain
qualitatively why a multiple-slit grating is better than a two-slit grating for
making accurate determinations of wavelength.

AP Learning Objectives
Physical optics
Interference and diffraction
Students should understand the interference and diffraction
of waves, so they can:
Apply the principles of interference to light reflected by
thin films, so they can:
State under what conditions a phase reversal occurs
when light is reflected from the interface between
two media of different indices of refraction.
Determine whether rays of monochromatic light
reflected perpendicularly from two such interfaces
will interfere constructively or destructively, and
thereby account for Newtons rings and similar
phenomena, and explain how glass may be coated
to minimize reflection of visible light.

Table Of Contents
1. The Principle of Linear Superposition

2. Youngs Double-Slit Experiment


3. Thin-Film Interference
4. The Michelson Interferometer (AP?)
5. Diffraction
6. Resolving Power (AP?)
7. The Diffraction Grating
8. Compact Discs, Digital Video Discs, and the Use of
Interference (AP?)
9. X-Ray Diffraction (AP?)

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light

Section 1:
The Principle of Linear
Superposition

The Principle of Linear Superposition


When two or more light waves pass through a given point, their electric
fields combine according to the principle of superposition.

The waves emitted by the sources start out in phase and arrive at
point P in phase, leading to constructive interference.

2 1 m

m 0,1,2,3,

The Principle of Linear Superposition

The waves emitted by the sources start out in phase and arrive at
point P out of phase, leading to destructive interference.

2 1 m 12

m 0,1,2,3,

The Principle of Linear Superposition

If constructive or destructive interference is to continue occurring at


a point, the sources of the waves must be coherent sources.
Two sources are coherent if the waves they emit maintain a constant
phase relation.

27.1.1. In a shallow pool of water, there are two needle-like dippers that
move up and down at the same constant frequency. The water
waves move outward from each source as shown in the drawing.
The wave crests, represented by solid lines, have an amplitude of
0.4 cm. What is the displacement of the water, relative to the
undisturbed water level, at the point labeled P?
a) +0.8 cm
b) +0.4 cm

c) zero cm
d) 0.4 cm

e) 0.8 cm

27.1.2. In a shallow pool of water, there are two needle-like dippers that
move up and down at the same constant frequency. The water
waves move outward from each source as shown in the drawing.
The wave crests, represented by solid lines, have an amplitude of
0.4 cm. What is the displacement of the water, relative to the
undisturbed water level, at the point labeled P?
a) +0.8 cm

b) +0.4 cm
c) zero cm
d) 0.4 cm
e) 0.8 cm

27.1.3. Two wave pulses are sent down a stretched out rope. Pulse A
is traveling toward the right with an amplitude of +2 mm. Pulse
B is traveling toward pulse A from the right to the left with an
amplitude of 4 mm. When the two pulses meet and completely
overlap, what will be the maximum displacement of the rope
relative to its undisurbed position?
a) zero mm

b) + 6 mm
c) + 2 mm
d) 2 mm
e) 4 mm

27.1.4. Complete the following sentence: In order for light to be


considered completely coherent,

a) the phase difference of light at any two points must be


constant.
b) it must originate from the same source.
c) its intensity at every point must be constant.
d) it must follow the same path.
e) it must be traveling at its vacuum speed.

27.1.5. Why is no interference pattern observed when light from


two sources of differing wavelength interfere?

a) The intensities of the two waves will be necessarily different.


b) The light from the two different sources is not likely to be
coherent.
c) If the two light sources are close enough to each other, they
will produce an interference pattern.

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light

Section 2:
Youngs Double-Slit
Experiment

Youngs Double Slit Experiment


In Youngs experiment, two
slits acts as coherent sources
of light.
Light waves from these slits
interfere constructively and
destructively on the screen.

Youngs Double Slit Experiment

The waves coming from the slits interfere constructively or


destructively, depending on the difference in distances between
the slits and the screen.

Youngs Double Slit Experiment

d sin

Bright fringes
of a double-slit

Dark fringes
of a double-slit

sin m

m 0,1,2,3,

sin m 12

m 0,1,2,3,

Example 1 Youngs Double-Slit Experiment


Red light (664 nm) is used in Youngs experiment with slits separated
by 0.000120 m. The screen is located a distance 2.75 m from the slits.
Find the distance on the screen between the central bright fringe and
the third-order bright fringe.


sin 1 m

664

10
m
1

sin 3
4
1.2010 m

0.951

y L tan 2.75 m tan0.951 0.0456 m

Conceptual Example 2 White Light and Youngs Experiment


The figure shows a photograph that illustrates the kind of interference
fringes that can result when white light is used in Youngs experiment.
Why does Youngs experiment separate white light into its constituent
colors? In any group of colored fringes, such as the two singled out,
why is red farther out from the central fringe than green is? Why is
the central fringe white?

27.2.1. You are sitting in a closed room with no windows. The only
light in the room originates from two identical bare, incandescent
light bulbs. One is located on the wall to your left; and the other is
located on the wall to your right. Bored, you look up at the ceiling
and realize there is no interference pattern. Why is there no
interference pattern?
a) The two light sources are not polarized.

b) The two light sources are not coherent.


c) The two light sources are in phase.

d) The interference pattern is too small to observe with the naked eye.
e) Interference of light is never observed, but the diffraction of light
can easily be observed.

27.2.2. In a Youngs double slit experiment, green light is


incident of the two slits; and the resulting interference pattern
is observed a screen. Which one of the following changes
would cause the fringes to be spaced further apart?
a) Move the screen closer to the slits.
b) Move the light source closer to the slits.
c) Increase the distance between the slits.
d) Use orange light instead of green light.
e) Use blue light instead of green light.

27.2.3. What happens to the locations of the maxima for double slit
interference when the size of the slits is reduced?
a) Reducing the size of the slits has no effect on the locations of the
maxima.
b) The distances between the maxima increase as the widths are
reduced.
c) The distances between the maxima decrease as the widths are
reduced.

d) Reducing the slit size only increases the number of maxima, but
the locations of the initial maxima are not changed.
e) Reducing the slit size only decreases the number of maxima, but
the locations of the initial maxima are not changed.

27.2.4. What happens to the width of the maxima for double slit
interference when the size of the slits is reduced?
a) Reducing the size of the slits has no effect on the size of the
maxima.

b) The widths of the maxima increase as the slit size is reduced.


c) The widths of the maxima decrease as the slit size is reduced.

d) Reducing the slit size only increases the number of maxima,


but the widths of the initial maxima are not changed.
e) Reducing the slit size only decreases the number of maxima,
but the widths of the initial maxima are not changed.

27.2.5. Without changing the slit width in the double slit


experiment, what effect on the interference pattern does
reducing the height of the slit have? Assume that the height
always remains somewhat larger than the wavelength of
light incident on the slits.
a) There is no effect on the pattern.
b) The distances between the maxima will increase.
c) The widths of the maxima will increase.
d) The number of maxima will increase.
e) The height of the maxima will decrease, but there is
otherwise no effect.

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light

Section 3:
Thin-Film Interference

Thin Film Interference


Because of reflection and refraction,
two light waves enter the eye when light
shines on a thin film of gasoline floating
on a thick layer of water.
Because of the extra distance traveled, there
can be interference between the two waves.

film

vacuum
n

Phase Change as Boundaries

When light travels through a


material with a smaller
refractive index towards a
material with a larger
refractive index,
reflection at the boundary
occurs along with a phase
change that is equivalent
to one-half of a
wavelength in the film.
When light travels from a
larger towards a smaller
refractive index,
there is no phase change
upon reflection.

Constructive Thin-film Interference

Occurs when:

1
2t
film
2
Extra distance

traveledby
wave 2

Half - wavelength
net phase change
due to reflection

film , 2 film , 3 film , ...

Condition for
constructive interference

Therefore,

m film
2

t
2

m 0, 1, 2, 3, ...

Destructive Thin-film Interference

Occurs when:

1
2t
film
2
Extra distance

traveledby
wave 2

Half - wavelength
net phase change
due to reflection

1
3
5
film , film , film , ...
2
22

Condition for
constructive interference

Therefore,

m film
2

m 0, 1, 2, 3, ...

Example 3 A Colored Thin Film of Gasoline


A thin film of gasoline floats on a puddle of water. Sunlight falls
perpendicularly on the film and reflects into your eyes. The film has
a yellow hue because destructive interference eliminates the color
of blue (469 nm) from the reflected light. The refractive indices of the
blue light in gasoline and water are 1.40 and 1.33. Determine the
minimum non-zero thickness of the film.

2t 12 film 12 film , 32 film , 52 film

mfilm
t
2
t

1469 nm 1.40 168 nm


2

Conceptual Example 4 Multicolored Thin Films


Under natural conditions, thin films, like gasoline on water or like
the soap bubble in the figure, have a multicolored appearance that often
changes while you are watching them. Why are such films multicolored
and why do they change with time?

Newtons Rings

If monochromatic light is
incident on an accurate
spherical surface which is
placed on an optically flat
plate
Circular Fringes are
created
Quick way to test the quality
of a lens for camera
manufacturers

27.3.1. A special system is set up in a lab that lets its user select any
wavelength between 400 nm and 700 nm with constant intensity.
This light is directed at a thin glass film (n = 1.53) with a thickness
of 350 nm and that is surrounded by air. As one scans through these
possible wavelengths, which wavelength of light reflected from the
glass film will appear to be the brightest, if any?
a) 428 nm

m 1
2
t

b) 535 nm
c) 657 nm
d) 700 nm

e) Since the intensity of the light is constant,


all wavelengths of light reflected from the
glass will appear to be the same.

film

2
2t

m 1

2nt

m 1

film

27.3.2. Blue light ( = 512 nm) is illuminating a thin film of plastic


(nP = 1.60) that is on top of a glass sheet (nG = 1.45). Which of
the following statements best describes the light that an observer
sees coming from the thin film, if it has a uniform thickness of
0.200 m?
a) You would see alternating bright and dark bands.
b) You would see the spectrum of colors.
c) You would see the film as uniformly bright due to constructive
interference.

d) You would see the film as uniformly dark due to destructive


interference.
e) You cannot see any effects because the film is too thin.

27.3.3. Blue light ( = 512 nm) is illuminating a thin film of plastic


(nP = 1.45) that is on top of a glass sheet (nG = 1.53). Which of
the following statements best describes the light that an
observer sees coming from the thin film, if it has a uniform
thickness of 0.265 m?
a) You would see alternating bright and dark bands.
b) You would see the spectrum of colors.
c) You would see the film as uniformly bright due to constructive
interference.

d) You would see the film as uniformly dark due to destructive


interference.
e) You cannot see any effects because the film is too thin.

27.3.4. Which one of the following choices does not affect


interference of light when the thickness of a thin film is much
less than the wavelength of light?
a) path length difference
b) phase shifts upon reflection
c) the angle of incidence

27.3.5. Which one of the following statements provides the most


convincing evidence that visible light is a form of
electromagnetic radiation?
a) Two light sources can be coherent.
b) Light can be reflected from a surface.
c) Light can form a double-slit interference pattern.
d) Light can be diffracted through an aperture.
e) Light travels through vacuum at the same speed as X-rays.

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light

Section 4:
The Michelson Interferometer
(AP?)

Michelson Interferometer

A schematic drawing of
a Michelson interferometer.

27.4.1. The drawing shows the Michelson interferometer with the


addition of a closed cylinder, the ends of which are
transparent. The sources provides a beam of monochromatic
light of wavelength . Initially, the cylinder, which has a
length L, is evacuated. This apparatus may be used to
determine the index of refraction for the gas in the cylinder.
As gas is very slowly allowed to enter the cylinder, a student
counts the number of fringes N that pass by a fixed point in
the viewing telescope. Which of the following is the correct
expression that determines the index of refraction for the gas?

a)

N
2L

b)

N
1
2L

c)

N
L
2

d)

nN

L
2

e)

nN

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light

Section 5:
Diffraction

Diffraction

Diffraction is the bending of waves around


obstacles or the edges of an opening.
Huygens principle
Every point on a wave front acts as
a source of tiny wavelets that move
forward with the same speed as the
wave;
The wave front at a latter instant is
the surface that is tangent to the
wavelets.

Effect of /W on Diffraction

The extent of the diffraction increases as the ratio of the wavelength


to the width of the opening increases.

Single Slit Diffraction of Light

Central Bright Band

This top view shows five


sources of Huygens wavelets.

Destructive Interference (Dark Band)

These drawings show how destructive


interference leads to the first dark fringe
on either side of the central bright fringe.

Equation for Dark Fringes (Single Slit)

Dark fringes for


single slit
diffraction

sin m

m 1,2,3,

Other types of Single Slit Diffraction

27.5.1. A human hair is placed directly in front of the opening of


a laser pointer. The light has a wavelength of 532 nm. On a
screen 2.0 m in front of the laser, a diffraction pattern is
observed with minima spaced 0.0164 m apart. Determine the
approximate thickness of the hair.
a) 40 m
b) 48 m
c) 53 m
d) 65 m
e) 79 m

27.5.2. A laser uniformly illuminates two narrow, identical slits and


an interference pattern is observed on a screen. Now, imagine
that one of the two slits is completely covered so that no light
can pass through it. Which of the following statements best
describes what is subsequently observable on the screen, if
anything?
a) The width of the maxima and their spacing looks the same as
before.
b) The maxima are spaced farther apart, but their width remains the
same.
c) The maxima are spaced closer together and their width is
smaller.

d) The maxima are spaced farther apart and their width increases.
e) Only a narrow band of light is observed on the screen.

27.5.3. Which of the following must be satisfied if interference


is to occur for light passing though a single slit?

a) The light source must be a point source.


b) The light must be traveling with an angle of incidence of 0
toward the slit.
c) The distance from the slit to the observation screen must be
greater than the width of the slit.

d) The width of the slit must be comparable to the wavelength


of light.
e) The light must be comprised of a single wavelength.

27.5.4. In a dark room, Jennifer is conducting an experiment. The two


sides of a slit-like opening are initially 5.0 cm apart. Jennifer shines
green laser light on the opening. She then continually brings the two
sides closer together, narrowing the slit-like opening. At what point
will Jennifer observe an interference (diffraction) pattern on a screen
behind the opening?
a) Shell she interference as soon as the slit width becomes similar to the
path difference between the Huygens wavelets.
b) Shell be unable to observe interference unless the waves undergo
edge effects at the opening.
c) Once the opening becomes comparable to an integer multiple of the
wavelength, shell be able to see the interference.
d) Shell be unable to observe interference by using green light. She
should use white light.

27.5.5. Which one of the following statements best explains why


the diffraction of sound is more apparent than the diffraction
of light under most circumstances?
a) Sound waves are longitudinal, and light waves are transverse.

b) Sound requires a physical medium for propagation.


c) Light waves can be represented by rays while sound waves
cannot.
d) The speed of sound in air is six orders of magnitude smaller
than that of light.

e) The wavelength of light is considerably smaller than the


wavelength of sound.

27.5.6. In a single slit experiment, what effect on the diffraction


pattern would result as the slit width is decreased?
a) The width of the central band would increase.
b) The width of the central band would decrease.
c) The width of the central band would not change.

27.5.7. In a single slit experiment, what effect on the first two


minima in the diffraction pattern would result as the slit width
is decreased?
a) The width of the two minima would increase.

b) The width of the two minima would decrease.


c) The width of the two minima would not change.

27.5.8. In a single slit experiment, what effect on the central


minimum in the diffraction pattern would result as the
wavelength of the light is decreased?
a) The width of the central maximum would increase.

b) The width of the central maximum would decrease.


c) The width of the central maximum would not change.

27.5.9. Light of wavelength 600 nm is incident upon a single slit with


width 4 104 m. The figure shows the pattern observed on a
screen positioned 2 m from the slits. Determine the distance s.

a) 0.002 m
b) 0.003 m
c) 0.004 m

d) 0.006 m
e) 0.008 m

27.5.10. Light of 600.0 nm is incident upon a single slit. The


resulting diffraction pattern is observed on a screen that is
0.50 m from the slit. The distance between the first and third
minima of the diffraction pattern is 0.80 mm. Which range of
values listed below contains the width of the slit?

a) 0.1 mm to 0.4 mm
b) 0.4 mm to 0.8 mm

c) 0.8 mm to 1.2 mm
d) 1.2 mm to 1.6 mm

e) 1.6 mm to 2.0 mm

27.5.11. Visible light of wavelength 589 nm is incident on a


diffraction grating that has 3500 lines/cm. At what angle with
respect to the central maximum is the fifth order maximum
observed?
a) 17.9
b) 23.8
c) 35.7
d) 71.3
e) A fifth order maximum cannot be observed with this grating.

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light
Section 6:
Resolving Power
(AP?)

Resolving Power

Three photographs of an automobiles headlights, taken at


progressively greater distances.

Effect of Diffraction of Resolving


Power
First minimum of a
circular diffraction pattern

sin 1.22

diameter of
hole

Resolving Two Objects

Rayleigh criterion
Two point objects are just resolved when the first dark fringe in
the diffraction pattern of one falls directly on the central bright
fringe in the diffraction patter of the other.

min 1.22

Conceptual Example 8 What You See is Not What You Get

The French postimpressionist artist Georges Seurat developed a


technique of painting in which dots of color are placed close together
on the canvas. From sufficiently far away the individual dots are not
distinguishable, and the images in the picture take on a more normal
appearance.
Why does the camera resolve the dots, while his eyes do not?

27.6.1. A spy satellite is at an altitude 650 km above the Earths


surface. How large must the satellites camera lens be so that
its resolution is 25 cm? Assume the average wavelength of
light of 480 nm.
a) 1.8 m
b) 2.7 m
c) 0.55 m
d) 1.5 m
e) 0.85 m

27.6.2. A special microscope has been set up that allows the user
to view a specimen using light from among the colors listed
below. Which of these would you choose to use for the best
resolution?
a) yellow

b) red
c) violet

d) blue
e) green

27.6.3. The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit above the Earth has
a 2.4 m circular aperture. The telescope has equipment for
detecting ultraviolet light. What is the minimum angular
separation between two objects that the Hubble Space
Telescope can resolve in ultraviolet light of wavelength 95
nm?
a) 4.8 108 rad
b) 7.0 108 rad
c) 1.9 107 rad
d) 1.5 107 rad
e) 3.3 109 rad

27.6.4. A spy satellite is in orbit at a distance of 1.0 106 m


above the ground. It carries a telescope that can resolve the
two rails of a railroad track that are 1.4 m apart using light of
wavelength 600 nm. Which one of the following statements
best describes the diameter of the lens in the telescope?
a) It is less than 0.14 m.
b) It is greater than 0.14 m and less than 0.23 m.

c) It is greater than 0.23 m and less than 0.35 m.


d) It is greater than 0.35 m and less than 0.52 m.

e) It is greater than 0.52 m.

27.6.5. The headlights of a car are 1.6 m apart and produce light
of wavelength 575 nm in vacuum. The pupil of the eye of
the observer has a diameter of 4.0 mm and a refractive index
of 1.4. What is the maximum distance from the observer that
the two headlights can be distinguished?
a) 8.0 km
b) 9.1 km

c) 11 km
d) 13 km

e) 16 km

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light

Section 7:
The Diffraction Grating

Diffraction Grating
An arrangement consisting of a large number of closely spaced,
parallel slits is called a diffraction grating.

Explanation of Diffraction

The conditions shown here lead to the first- and second-order intensity
maxima in the diffraction pattern.

Grating vs Double Slit


The bright fringes produced by
a diffraction grating are much
narrower than those produced by
a double slit.

Principal maxima of a
diffraction grating

sin m

m 0,1,2,3,

distance between
slits

Example 9 Separating Colors With a Diffraction Grating


A mixture of violet (410 nm) light and red (660 nm) light falls onto
a grating that contains 1.0x104 lines/cm. For each wavelength,
find the angle that locates the first-order maximum.

410

10
m

1
1

violet

sin

24
sin
6

1.0

10
m
d

9
red
1 660 10 m

sin

41
sin
6

d
1.010 m
1

27.7.1. Two monochromatic beams of light, one red and one blue, are directed at
the same spot on a diffraction grating. The resultant diffraction pattern is
observed on a screen located a short distance behind the grating. Which of
the following best describes the observed pattern?
a) The central maximum appears to be purple. The maxima on each side would
alternate, first red, then blue.
b) The central maximum appears to be purple. The maxima on each side would
alternate, first blue, then red.
c) The central maximum is red. The maxima on each side would alternate, first
blue, then red.
d) The central maximum is blue. The maxima on each side would alternate, first
red, then blue.
e) The central maximum is blue. The maxima on each side would alternate, first
blue, then red.

27.7.2. Three monochromatic light beams are directed at a


diffraction grating. The resulting pattern, shown in
grayscale below, is observed on a screen 2 m from the
grating. What is the correct order from top to bottom of the
three light beams used?

a) green, red, blue


b) red, green, blue

c) blue, green, red


d) green, blue, red

e) blue, red, green

27.7.3. Diffraction occurs when light passes through a single slit.


Rank the following three choices in decreasing order, according to
the extent of the diffraction that occurs (largest diffraction first): A
- blue light, narrow slit, B - red light, narrow slit, C - blue light,
wide slit
Note: The blue light referred to in choices A and C is the same
wavelength. Also, the narrow slit referred to in choices A and B is
the same width.

a) A, B, C
b) B, A, C
c) C, A, B

d) A, C, B
e) B, C, A

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light
Section 8:
Compact Discs, Digital Video
Discs, and the Use of
Interference
(AP?)

Storing info in CD/DVD/Blueray

Pit thickness allows for


destructive interference

Thin film interference

Light either reflects or doesnt

No interference or
destructive

Photoreceptor interprets as 1
or 0 for binary code.

Diffraction Gratings use

By using a diffraction grating,

3 beams reflect off the surface


into photoreceptors

Center beam reflects as

previous described.

Outer beams used to make


sure the center beam is

tracking the discs information


correctly

Chapter 27:
Interference and the Wave Nature of
Light

Section 9:
X-Ray Diffraction
(AP?)

X-ray Diffraction

Space between atoms/ions in


crystals acts as slits of a
diffraction grating

Resulting diffraction pattern


can be used to back calculate
the crystal structure

Actual Diffraction Patterns

NaCl

DNA