Physics » Introducing Electromagnetic Waves » Diffraction Through A Single Slit

Summary and Main Ideas


  • A wavefront is an imaginary line that connects waves that are in phase.

  • Huygen’s Principle states that every point of a wave front serves as a point source of spherical, secondary waves. After a time t, the new position of the wave front will be that of a surface tangent to the secondary waves.

  • Diffraction is the ability of a wave to spread out in wavefronts as the wave passes through a small aperture or around a sharp edge.

  • When a wave passes through a slit, diffraction of the wave occurs. Diffraction of the wave is when the wavefront spreads out or “bends” around corners.

  • The degree of diffraction depends on the width of the slit and the wavelength of the wave with:\(\text{diffraction}\propto \frac{\lambda}{w}\) where \(\lambda\) is the wavelength of the wave and \(w\) is the width of the slit.

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