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Le Fevre High School

SACE Stage 2 Physics

Single Slit Diffraction & Youngs Double Slit Experiment

Diffraction at the first slit causes the light to spread out and illuminate the double slits
S1 and S2.
If these two slits are close together compared with their distance from S then
effectively a single wave front will illuminate them and so light from S1 and S2 will be
i.e. there will be a constant phase difference (possibly 0) between them. Diffraction at
S1 and S2 causes the light from them to spread out and overlap so that the light can

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(a) We see a bright central maximum with weaker secondary maxima on either side.
The variation in light intensity is shown in the graph below.


(b) blue light is of shorter wavelength. This will result in less diffraction. The central
maximum will be narrower and the secondary maxima closer together.

Le Fevre High School

Diagram A has a broader maximum and so shows more diffraction. This will be
caused by the longer wavelength light.
The first single slit diffracts the light so that the diffracted wavefronts reach the
double slit as a common wavefront. The double slits must lie within this diffraction
band. This results in coherent light being produced from the double slits. The double
slits diffract the light so that it overlaps in the region behind the slits. This allows the
now coherent light to interfere.
(a) Bringing the slits closer together changes the bandwidth of the interference pattern
without changing the diffraction envelope. There will be fewer bands under the
dotted line.
(b) The thinner slits will diffract the light more. This will cause the diffraction
envelope shown by the dotted line to broaden. As the spacing of the slits is unchanged
the bandwidth will remain the same.
(a) largest d means smallest bandwidth - E
(b) smallest d means largest bandwidth - A
(c) thinnest slits means the largest amount of diffraction. i.e. the widest diffraction
envelope. - they all look about the same!
(d) C
Place a narrow slit, S near a source of monochromatic light. Place a pair of slits, S1
and S2 symmetrically about the line through the source and slit S. Place a screen S4 as
shown, and exclude stray light from the system, (e.g., by building it into a tube, or
using a dark room).
Light Source


To ensure distinct fringes, requires:

(1) sufficiently narrow slits (e.g., width 0.05 mm) - to ensure effective diffraction.
(2) slip separation small (e.g., 0.2 mm between centres) - to ensure the fringes are
wide enough to discriminate and the intensity of light from each slit is approximately
the same at a point equidistant on the viewing screen.
(3) Screen sufficiently far from S1S2 - same reason.
(4) Need single slit at front of this arrangement to give a plane parallel beam incident
on S1, S2 to give coherence for each of the wavelets emanating from these slits.

Le Fevre High School

Thus superpositioning of these wavelets results in a stationary and hence observable
interference pattern.
(5) Monochromatic source
(6) Darkened room.
Width of fringes
For small angles y =

i.e. factors affecting the width of the fringes are:

(a) - the wavelength of the light used. The bigger the the bigger will be the fringe
separation and hence the width of each fringe.
(b) L - the distance of the screen from the slits. The larger is L the bigger will be the
fringe width.
(c) d - the separation of the two slits. The smaller is d the larger will be the fringe
Measurement of wavelength
In order to measure the wavelength of a light source one would measure the slit
separation (d)
and the distance of the screen from the double slits (L). Then using the light source as
the source of light for the double slit interferometer a measurement of the band width
would be taken. It may be necessary to view the fringes using an eyepiece if y is
small. In this case the fringes would have to be viewed from the opposite side of a
very thin screen or as in our apparatus the screen could be removed entirely. In any
case the slit dimensions would have to be sufficiently small to allow a measurable
bandwidth for the used. Then the would be calculated from the formula for the
d = 0.025 cm y = 0.06 cm L = 30 cm
0.06 x 0.025
= 5.0 x 10-5 cm