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Young’s Device

– Study of light interference –


1. Abstract

The purpose of this experiment is to demonstrate the phenomenon of


interference between light waves and measure the wave lengths of
monochromatic waves. In the basic version of this experiment, a coherent light
source, such as a laser beam, illuminates a plate pierced by two parallel slits,
and the light passing through the slits is observed on a screen behind the plate.
The wave nature of light causes the light waves passing through the two slits to
interfere, producing bright and dark fringes on the screen — a result that
would not be expected if light consisted of classical particles. Actually, the
same goes for the case in which light is considered as particles. This is because
each particle that passes through the slits interferes with itself forming the
same fringe pattern on the screen.

2. Theory

Young’s device or the double-slit experiment in quantum physics is an


experiment devised by Thomas Young. It shows that light has both a wave
nature and a particle nature. So, light is said to have wave–particle duality.

In physics, interference is a phenomenon in which two waves superpose to


form a resultant wave of greater, lower or the same amplitude. Interference
usually refers to the interaction of waves that are correlated or coherent with
each other, either because they come from the same source or because they
have the same or nearly the same frequency. Interference effects can be
observed with all types of waves, for example, light, radio, acoustic, surface
water waves or matter waves.
2.1. Formulas for interference:

1 and  2 are the monochromatic waves


is the angular frequency
k is the wave vector
a1 and a2 are amplitudes
1 and 2 are initial phases
  a1ei(t kr1 1)
1

 2 a2ei(t kr2  2 )
Phase difference:   2  1  k (r1  r2 )  2  1  kr  

 ( P)  1( P)   2 ( P)
The resultant wave intensity:

I ( P)   ( P) ( P)  a12 a22  2a1 a2 cos(α)


The visibility is obtained by dividing the difference and the sum of
the maximum and minimum value of the fringes.
Imax=(a1 + a2)2 Imin=(a1 - a2)2
I I
V  max min
Imax  Imin

3. Description of the experimental setup:

The experimental device consists of an electric light bulb C and the following
parts attached to a support which can slide on an optic bench BO:
- The vertical slit F is adjustable and acts as the S source
- The vertical slits F1 and F2 are parallel and act as the S1 and S2 sources
- The parts used for measuring the fringes are a magnifying glass, a
micrometric screw M, which has a sleeve with main scale R and a
thimble T attached to it, and a vertical reticular string
The bulb emits a white light. The magnifying glass has an optical filter which
helps creating a monochromatic fringe system.

4. Experimental procedure

The F slit, which is slightly open (1mm opening), is illuminated. The F1


and F2 slits and the magnifying glass’ positions are adjusted according to
the height of the F slit using a white sheet of paper as screen.
While looking through the magnifying glass, the F slit’s opening is
decreased such that the interference fringes are clear.
The distance l is decreased.
In one of the extremities of the fringes pattern, by rotating the drum T,
the reticular string is positioned in the centre of one bright fringe and
the position of the sleeve is denoted with a1 and the position of the
drum is denoted with b1. The drum rotates passing the reticular string
over N fringes, N being greater than 5. After that, the number N is noted
and also the new position a2 and b2. For avoiding the dead step of the
micrometric screw, it is recommended to bring the string to its initial
position by continuing the movement in the same direction.
Keeping the distance l unchanged, the procedure is repeated 10 times.
5. The principle of Young’s Device
The principle of Young’s Device is represented in the following figure.
S is a light source which illuminates a screen with two narrow slits, which act as
secondary coherent sources S1 and S2. The coherence is maintained as long as
the distance between the slits d is not too big. On the screen E there are bright
fringes which alternate with dark fringes. Because the secondary sources S1
and S2 are from the same wave-front, the initial phases are equal 1 = 2 and
the interference 2a1a2cos(kr) is determined, in each point P of the plan E, by
the length difference r.

The temporal coherence is ensured because the length difference is lower than
the coherence length even for sources with bigger bandwidth.
The distance i between the centres of two bright or dark fringes is called
interfringe.
If the interfringe is experimentally measured, then the wavelength can be
𝑑𝑖
computed with the following formula 𝜆 =
𝑙

l is the distance from the slits to the screen


d is the distance between the slits
| 𝑟𝑓−𝑓𝑖 |
i is given by the formula 𝑖 =
𝑁

N is the number of fringes passed (N>=5)


rf and ri are the final and initial positions of the fringes as noted from the
thimble
6. Errors
For the 10 measurements we need to compute the average square error
using the following formula:

∑𝑛𝑖=1(𝜆𝑖 − 𝜆̅)2
𝜎𝜆̅ = √
𝑛(𝑛 − 1)

The result will be written as 𝜆 = (𝜆̅ ± 𝜎𝜆̅ )𝑛𝑚

7. Questions
7.1. Explain why the decreasing of the slit’s width F leads to improved
contrast of the fringes!
7.2. Why is a filter required? Can’t the measurements be made in
white light?
7.3. Explain the justified need to repeat the measurements!
7.4. Why, when calculating errors, the micrometric screw’s error is
ignored?

Answers:
1. If the slit’s width is smaller, the light waves are better focused in the
central region thus increasing the spatial coherence and improving the
contrast.
2. A filter is used to select a single monochromatic radiation in order to
obtain a single system of fringes.
3. The measurements need to be repeated in order to provide a more
accurate result when measuring the wavelength, thus minimising the
errors.
4. The device has an error which is due to the fact that the 0 on the thimble
doesn’t match the 0 on the sleeve with the main scale.