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# Prelab: Interference and Diffraction

Draw a flowchart of the procedure for this experiment. The flowchart should show the
relevant steps and precautions for the experiment. It must be concise, but it must also
be complete. Make sure that the flowchart is neat and easy to read. If necessary, you
may use additional sheets of paper for the flowchart and attach them to this sheet before
submission.

## Prelab: Interference and Diffraction 1

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EXPERIMENT
Interference and Diffraction

Objectives

## investigate the pattern produced by diffraction through a single slit

quantitatively relate the single-slit diffraction pattern obtained to the slit width

tion

## determine the qualitative relationship between a double-slit diffraction pattern and

the corresponding slit separation.

Introduction

Light has a dual nature: it can behave as a particle or as a wave, depending on how it is
manipulated or observed. When light passes through very narrow slits, it exhibits inter-
ference, a characteristic of waves. Interference arises due to the principle of superposi-
tion: when waves encounter each other, they can either add up (constructive interference)
or cancel each other out (destructive interference), depending on the properties of each
wave. The superposition of light waves produces interesting patterns composed of bright
and dark bands, corresponding to areas with constructive and destructive interference,
respectively.
Ideally, light passing through a very narrow slit should emerge as a single light wave. In
reality, due to constraints in manufacturing, a slit will always be of finite width. Light that
passes through this slit emerges as many sources of light waves distributed continuously
across the slit. These waves interfere with each other, producing a diffraction pattern.
The term interference is commonly used when dealing with two or more discrete
sources of light waves (such as very narrow slits), while diffraction is used when dealing
with multiple sources over a continuous area (such as an aperture). However, fundamen-
tally, these two phenomena are the same, as they both arise from wave interference that
follows the principle of superposition.

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1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018 Physics 72.1

Theory

A. Single-slit Diffraction
When a monochromatic wave passes through a single slit of finite width a, it produces a
diffraction pattern composed of alternating bright and dark fringes. The pattern, which
is symmetric about the center, is visible if a screen is placed a distance L from the slit.
The intensity of the light hitting the screen would vary with position as given in Figure
1.

## Figure 1. Intensity plot of a diffraction pattern produced by a monochromatic light

passing through a single slit

The central bright fringe, called the central maximum, is the widest and brightest
among the bright fringes (maxima). The bright fringes decrease in brightness as one
moves away from the central maximum. In between the bright fringes are dark fringes
corresponding to areas of destructive interference.
The diffraction pattern depends on the slit width a, the slit-to-screen distance L, and
the wavelength of the light source . For small values of (Figure 1), the fringes at
the sides of the central maximum are of equal width. Setting the center of the pattern
(the intensity peak of the central maximum) to y = 0, the location of the mth intensity
minimum is
mL
ym , (m = 1, 2, 3, . . .) . (1)
a
The pattern is symmetric about the center. By convention, m > 0 above or to the right
of y = 0, and m < 0 below or to the left of y = 0. However, the distance from the center
to the nearest dark fringe, whether above or below, or to the right or to the left, is the
same. Rearranging Equation (1) yields an expression for the slit width, a:

mL
a= , (m = 1, 2, 3, . . .) . (2)
ym

By examining the pattern and taking the appropriate measurements for ym , we can find
the slit width using Equation (2).

4 Introduction
Physics 72.1 1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018

B. Double-slit Interference

## Figure 2. A comparison between the patterns observed in single-slit and double-slit

diffraction. The slit widths used for both setups are the same. Note that when
light passes through two identical slits of finite width, we observe the same outline as
that observed if only a single slit were used. Upon closer examination, however, we
could see the smaller interference fringes in the double-slit pattern. Image taken from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Single slit and double slit2.jpg.

When we shine monochromatic light on two identical slits of finite width, we observe
two effects. First, light will diffract upon encountering each slit. However, because now
there are two sources of diffracted light, the light that emerges from the two slits will
interfere. The pattern produced is a combination of double-slit interference and single-slit
diffraction.
Since single-slit diffraction has already been discussed previously, we proceed to
double-slit interference. When light strikes two very narrow slits spaced a distance d
apart and we place a screen a distance L from the slits, there will be a series of alter-
nating bright and dark fringes on the screen. Unlike in a diffraction pattern, the bright
fringes in an interference pattern are of equal brightness.
Set y = 0 to be the center of the pattern. This corresponds to an intensity peak of
a bright fringe. The distance to the mth intensity peak (center of a bright fringe) away
from the center is
mL
ym = , (m = 1, 2, 3, . . .) . (3)
d
Since the bright and dark fringes are of equal width and are equally spaced, Equation (3)
also gives the width of each fringe, bright or dark.
Note that Equation (3) is similar in form to Equation (1), with the slit width a
replaced by the slit separation d. However, they are different in principle. Equation (1)

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1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018 Physics 72.1

(a) (b)

## Figure 3. (a) Intensity plot of a double-slit interference pattern produced by monochro-

matic light passing through a double slit. The single-slit diffraction pattern, shown in
dashed lines, is included to show how these fringes are grouped. Note that the fringes
are not of equal brightness, and that the intensity peaks are contained in the single-slit
diffraction envelope. (b) Zoomed-in version of the pattern near the m = 0 order.

gives the position of intensity minima in a single-slit setup, while Equation (3) gives the
position of intensity maxima in a double-slit setup.
When we have two identical slits of finite width, what we get is a combination of
these two patterns. The outline of the single-slit diffraction pattern, called the diffraction
envelope, is still observed. However, if one looks closely, there are narrower, equally spaced
bright and dark fringes inside the diffraction envelope (Figure 2). Unlike the interference
fringes from two very narrow slits, these are not of equal brightness. The intensity plot
is shown in Figure 3, with the single-slit diffraction envelope shown for comparison.
In double-slit interference, the width of the interference fringes are controlled by the
slit separation d. On the other hand, the diffraction envelope, which controls how the
interference fringes are grouped, is controlled by the slit separation a. In this experi-
ment, you will be changing the slit width and the slit separation independently, and will
investigate how these changes affect the double-slit interference pattern.

6 Introduction
Physics 72.1 1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018

Materials

Laser diode

Optical bench

Single-slit disk

Multiple-slit disk

Pencil

Ruler

Desk lamp

Procedure

CAUTION:

## Do not look directly into the laser beam.

Do not touch the slits with your fingers or with any other instrument including
pens and pencils.

## Do not hit other people with the laser beam.

A. Single-slit Diffraction

Figure 4. (L) laser, (S) slit, (OB) optical bench and (SC) screen

1. Set up the laser at one end of the optical bench and place the single slit disk in its
holder about 3 cm in front of the laser (Figure 4).

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1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018 Physics 72.1

2. Attach the white sheet of paper on a wall, whiteboard or some other sturdy vertical
surface far from the slit. Place it such that the laser would hit it.

3. Select the 0.04-mm width single slit by rotating the slit disk until the desired slit is
centered in the slit holder. Adjust the position of the laser beam horizontally and
vertically, using the knobs at the back of the laser diode, until the beam is centered
on the slit. Make sure that the slit and the pattern are of the same level vertically.

4. Determine the horizontal distance from the slit disk (not the slit holder) to the
screen. Record the slit-to-screen distance, L, in Table W1.

5. Turn off the room lights. You may use a desk lamp to help you work in the dark.
Keep it pointed downwards and keep its head near the top of the table to avoid
illuminating other setups.

Figure 5. (L) laser, (S) slit, (OB) optical bench and (SC) screen

6. Mark the boundaries of the dark fringes on the white sheet (Figure 5). The mth
intensity minimum is located at the center of a dark fringe. Using a ruler and the
dark fringe boundary marks you made earlier, mark the locations of the intensity
minima.

## 7. Measure the distance y1 between the first-order (m = 1) minima and record

this distance in Tables W1 and W2. Also measure the distance y2 between the
second-order (m = 2) minima and record it in Table W2.

8. Divide the distances between side orders by two (2) to get the distances from the
center of the pattern to the first and second order minima (ym = 12 ym ). Record
these values of ym in Tables W1 and W2.

## 9. Sketch the single-slit diffraction pattern (up to the m = 2 diffraction minima) to

scale in Figure W1.

## 10. Change the slit width to 0.02 mm and repeat Steps 3 to 9.

11. Change the slit width to 0.08 mm and sketch to scale the diffraction pattern in
Figure W1.

12. Calculate the wavelength of the laser then record it in Table W1. If the value of the
wavelength is printed on the label of the laser (theoretical wavelength), calculate
the percent difference between the experimental and the theoretical wavelengths.

8 Procedure
Physics 72.1 1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018

13. Calculate the slit width twice, once using the data for the first-order minima and
once using the data for the second-order minima. Record the results in Table W2.
For your calculations, use the theoretical wavelength found on the label of the laser
diode.

14. Calculate the percent difference between the computed slit width and the value
found on the slit label. Record in Table W2.

## B. Double-slit Interference I: Calculating the Slit Width

1. Set up the laser at one end of the optical bench and place the multiple slit disk in
its holder about 3 cm in front of the laser (Figure 4).

2. Attach the white sheet of paper on a wall, whiteboard or some other sturdy vertical
surface far from the slit. Place it such that the laser would hit it.

## 3. Begin with a qualitative observation of double-slit interference. Select the variable

double slit with 0.04 mm slit width and slit separation varying from 0.125 mm
to 0.75 mm. Observe the interference fringes and the diffraction envelope as the
slit separation is varied. Does the diffraction envelope change? How about the
interference fringes?

4. Select the double slit with 0.04 mm slit width and 0.25 mm slit separation by
rotating the slit disk until the desired double slit is centered on the slit holder.
Adjust the position of the laser beam horizontally and vertically until the beam is
centered on the slit.

5. Determine the distance from the slit disk (not the slit holder) to the screen. Record
the slit-to-screen distance, L, in Table W1. Again, make sure that the slit and the
pattern are at the same level vertically before measuring L.

6. Turn off the room lights. You may borrow a desk lamp from the lab assistant to
help you work in the dark. Keep it pointed downwards and keep its head near the
top of the table to prevent illuminating other setups.

7. Observe the diffraction envelope and the interference fringes inside it. How is this
different from the single-slit diffraction pattern?

8. Consider the diffraction envelope. Mark the boundaries of the dark fringes. The
mth intensity minimum is located at the center of a dark fringe. Using a ruler
and the dark fringe boundary marks you made earlier, mark the locations of the
intensity minima.

9. Measure the distance y1 between the m = 1 minima and divide by two (2) to
get the distance from the center, y1 . Do the same for the m = 2 minima and
record these values in Table W3.

10. Using the data, calculate the slit width and the percent difference.

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1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018 Physics 72.1

C. Double-slit Interference II: Changing the Slit Width and the Slit
Separation
1. Project the double-slit interference pattern onto the whiteboard or onto the wall.
You do not need to measure the slit-to-screen distance, but make sure that it
remains the same for the rest of the experiment. The farther the slit is from the
screen, the easier it will be to see the interference pattern.

2. Count the number of interference fringes located inside the central maximum then
record it in Table W4.

3. Measure the width of the central maximum and divide by the number of interference
fringes. This gives an approximate value of the width of each interference fringe.
Record these values in Table W4.

## 4. Sketch the double-slit diffraction pattern (up to the m = 2 diffraction minima)

to scale in Figure W2.

5. Do steps 1 4 for the remaining double-slits. Record your data in Table W4:

## a = 0.04 mm, d = 0.50 mm

a = 0.08 mm, d = 0.25 mm
a = 0.08 mm, d = 0.50 mm

10 Procedure
Physics 72.1 1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018

Instructor:

A. Data Summary

## Distance from center to side, y1

Calculated wavelength

Percent difference

Average wavelength ()

m=1 m=2

## Distance from center to side, ym

Calculated wavelength

Percent difference

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Figure W1. Sketches (to scale) of diffraction pattern for various slid widths and fixed
slit-to-screen distance

## (a) a = 0.02 mm (b) a = 0.04 mm (c) a = 0.08 mm

Table W3. Data and Results for the a = 0.04 mm, d = 0.25 mm Double Slit

m=1 m=2

## Calculated slit width

Percent difference

## Table W4. Data and Results for Double-slit Interference II

a = 0.04 mm a = 0.08 mm

## d = 0.25 mm d = 0.50 mm d = 0.25 mm d = 0.50 mm

Number of fringes

## Width of central maximum

Fringe width

12 Worksheet
Physics 72.1 1st Sem, A.Y. 2017-2018

Questions

1. From Figure W1, discuss how the diffraction envelope changes as the slit width is
decreased.

2. Theoretically, how does the slit width in a double-slit setup affect the diffrac-
tion envelope? How does it affect the width of the interference fringes? Do your
observations agree with your predictions?

3. Theoretically, how does the slit separation in a double-slit setup affect the diffrac-
tion envelope? How does it affect the width of the interference fringes? Do your
observations agree with your predictions?

4. How will each of the following affect the width of the fringes in a single-slit diffrac-
tion pattern?

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## (b) placing the screen farther from the slit

5. How will each of the following affect the width of the fringes in a double-slit inter-
ference pattern?

## (b) placing the screen farther from the slit

6. Sketch what would have been the pattern for the single slit and for the double slit
if light were to behave as particles (imagine light as rays or beams of particles).

14 Worksheet