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Liverpool John Moores University


Interferometry Concepts

Popular inteferometric configurations

Absolute distance measurement (ADI)

Optical Path Length [OPL]
Optical Path Difference [OPD]

Spatial coherence
Temporal coherence

Optical Interfrometry is an optical measurement technique that provides extreme

precise measurements of distance, displacement or shape and surface of objects.

It exploits the phenomenon of light waves interference .

Where under certain conditions a pattern of dark and light bars called interference
fringes can be produced. Fringes can be analyzed to present accurate
measurements in the range of nanometer.

The recent developments in laser, fiber optics and digital processing techniques

have supported optical interferometry .

Applications ranging from the measurement of a molecule size to the diameters of


Light waves
For many centuries, light was considered a stream of particles .
Light wave exhibits various behaviours which can not interpreted

through the particles theory of light such as, refraction, diffraction

and interference.
in19th century the particles concept was replaced by the wave
theory .
light waves are transverse waves with two components; magnetic
and electric field each one of them oscillating perpendicular to the
other and to the propagation direction.
The visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum it extends
from 750nm for the red color to 380nm for the violet color .

Light wave characteristics:

EM-wave propagation

Visible light spectrum

light speed in free space (c): C=300k (km/s)

C = v
V = c/n
n = /n
Where: n is the refractive index of the medium in which the light travels.

n is the wavelength in medium other than free space.

Refractive index

Interference is a light phenomenon .It

can be seen in everyday life. e.g..

colures of oil film floating on water.

In electromagnetic waves , interference

between two or more waves is just an

addition or superposition process. It
results in a new wave pattern .

Superposition of two waves

When two waves with an equal amplitudes are superposed the

output wave depends on the phase between the input waves.

Y = y1 + y2

y1=A1 sin (wt + 1 )

y2=A2 sin (wt + 2)

Since the energy in the light wave is intensity I ,which is proportional to

the sum of square amplitudes A^2

where: A=A1^2+A2^2+2A1A2 cos (1 2)

A1=A2=A then:

A=2A^2+2A^2 cos (1 2)

y1&y2 in phase ,cos(0)=1 hence,

Y = 4A^2 ,it gives a bright fringe.


y1&y2 out of phase by () ,cos ()=-1 hence,

Y = 0 ,it gives a dark fringe

Optical Path Length [OPL]

When light beam travels in space from one point to

another, the path length is the geometric length d

multiplied by n (the air refractive index) which is

OPL = d

Light beam travels in different mediums will have

different optical path, depending on the refractive

index (n)of the medium or mediums.

OPL = n d

Optical Path Difference [OPD]

If two beams with the same wavelength i.e same

frequency, travel from two different points

towards the same destination ,taking different
paths there will be a difference in their optical
path this difference is called the optical path
difference [OPD].

it is very important factor in determining fringes


OPD = m
Here, If m=0 or any integer values there will be a

bright fringe. Otherwise dark fringes (maximum

darkness when )
OPD= (m-1/2)

Intensity of Interference fringes

Intensity of interference fringes depends on the phase

between the recombined waves i.e.

Intensity I is the complex amplitude of the interferer

waves A given as:


I = lAl^2 = I1+I2+2(I1I2) cos () ^1/2


I max = I1 + I2 +2(I1I2)^1/2
if I1=I2 then
I max=4I
I min = I1 + I2 2(I1I2)^1/2
if I1=I2 then


I min=0

Visibility of Interference fringes

Visibility determines the ability to resolve

interference fringes. It depends on the coherence

degree between the recombined light waves.

It is defined as:

V = I max - I min / I max + I min

maximum if Imin = 0 ,
When Imin = Imax ,

V= 1
V= 0
[ 0 V1 ].

Coherence of light wave is defined as the correlation

between the electric field values at different locations or

times. The coherent light source is able to produce a
coherent waves able to interfere with each other.

Ideal coherent source is a source with one wave length

only monochromatic which does not exist in practice.

Practically, there is no fully coherent light or fully

incoherent light, but there are light sources with deferent

coherence degree .

Spatial & Temporal Coherence

Spatial coherence:
The degree of correlation between different points on the
same wave front at the same time.
Spatial coherence is light source dependent, as the source
size extends its spatial coherence degree deteriorate.

Temporal coherence:
The correlation between the electric fields at the same
point but at different times.
Temporal coherence proportionate to the wave train
length. Monochromatic sources such as laser have a high
degree of temporal coherence, because of the long wave

Coherence Length: S = N .
where N is the waves number contained in one wave train.

Coherence time :t = S / C
where C is the light speed in space .

Interferometers classifications:
wave front division interferometers
Amplitude division interferometer
Popular configurations:
Michelson interferometer
Twyman-Green interferometer
Mach-Zehnder interferometer
Fapry-Perot interferometer


Is an optical instrument that can produced two

beams interference or multiple beam
wave front division interferometers:

Two light beams from the same wave front are

made to interfere to produce an interference
fringe pattern.

Amplitude-division interferometers:

A light beam from one source point is divided

into two beams using a beam splitter.
e.g. Michelsons interferometer

Michelson interferometer

Michelson interferometer consists of a coherent light

source, a beam splitter BS a reference mirror ,a
movable mirror and a screen .

There are many measurements that Michelson

interferometer can be used for, absolute distance
measurements, optical testing and measure gases
refractive index.
Work method:

The BS divides the incident beam into two parts one

travel to the reference mirror and the other to the
movable mirror .both parts are reflected back to BS
recombined to form the interference fringes on the

Twyman-Green interferometer
A modified configuration of Michelson

interferometer ( rotatable mirror& a

monochromatic point source)

Applications: length measurements, optical testing


lenses ,prisms, mirrors.

Work method:
When the interferometer aligned properly, two images
of the light source S from the two mirrors M1&M2 will
coincide. The superposed waves are parallel and have a
constant phase difference. On the serene a uniform
illumination can be seen with a constant intensity
depends on the path difference.

Mirror imperfections test:

There will be an interference fringes due to the path
difference between W2 and the reference plan wave W1

Mach-Zehnder interferometer
consists of a light source, a detector, two mirrors to control the
beams directions and two beam splitters to split and recombine
the incident beam.

Applications: refractive index fluid flow ,heat transfer.

Work method: BS1 divides the incident beam into 2

beams,mirrors M1&M2 reflect beams to BS2 . BS2 recombine

the beams. interference fringes produced depending on the
path difference .

measure thickness at constant refractive index

measure refractive index at constant thickness

Fabry-Perot Interferometer [FPI]

consisting of two parallel high reflecting glass plates separated several
millimeters , a focusing lens and a display screen.

Advantages& disadvantages:
high sensitivity to wave length changes. (used in laser to select
wave length)
High resolution fringes (used in optical spectroscopy)
measure or control the light wave lengths e.g. in laser as a resonator to
select a single wave length. optical spectroscopy .
Work method:
the beam falls on L1, part of the beam is transmitted to L2, other part is

reflected .the transmitted part partially reflected back to L 1. Then again

reflected to the L2 which partially reflects and transmit each incident
light. The transmitted lights from L2 falls on the Focusing lens. beams
are focused on the screen at point P .these beams interfere constructively
or destructively according to the phase difference between them .

Absolute Distance Measurements

Developments in laser techniques and digital image processing have made distance

measurement by optical techniques very attractive at variety of applications in

industrial fields e.g. tool calibration, aircraft industry and robotics.

Two measurement techniques:

Non-Coherent methods:

Triangulation techniques
Time-of-flight systems
Measurement accuracy larger than a 1mm

Coherent methods:

based on interferometry, enable high precision measurements of distances or


Classical interferometry: (i.e. one-wavelength)

commonly used for high-resolution displacement measurements. Resolution better than
100 nm .Drawback of this technique is the incremental manner of measuring, resulting
from the counting of optical fringes.
ADI cannot be covered by classical interferometry since the range of non-ambiguity is
limited to half the optical wavelength

multiple-wavelength interferometry :(MWI)

offers great flexibility in sensitivity by an appropriate choice of the different wavelengths
Example: conceder two optical wavelength 1&2 with PD=L .the phases 1 and 2
corresponding to the wavelengths 1 and 2
1 =(2/ 1) 2L & 2=(2/ 2) 2L
12= (1 - 2) = 2/[1/ 1 - 1/ 2] 2L = [2/ s]2L
s= [12/(1- 2)] this synthetic wavelength is much longer than 1 or 2.
The range of non-ambiguity of the phase difference 12, which is also known as the
synthetic phase, is therefore increased compared to the range of non-ambiguity of
classical interferometry. Moreover, the sensitivity of the measurement is reduced.

ADI system module



laserto 2






Adjusttunablelasersourceatarbitrary 1suchas682nmandgrabimage1
Calculate 2: 2= 1/[( 1/S)+1]=681.908nm
Adjusttunablelasersourceat 1=681.908nmandgrabimage2
Divideambiguityrangeby2so s=2.5mm

Adjustlaserat 1=681.908nmthenCalculate 2=681.522nm

calculate betweenimage2&3.
calculate betweenimage3&4.