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You have learnt about the basic principles of reflection and refraction. In this chapter, you will learn about phenomena that arise with waves in two and three dimensions: interference and diffraction.


Investigation : wavefronts

The diagram shows three identical waves being emitted by three point sources. All points marked with the same letter are in phase. Join all points with the same letter.

What type of lines (straight, curved, etc) do you get? How does this compare to the line that joins the sources?

Consider three point sources of waves. If each source emits waves isotropically (i.e. the same in all directions) we will get the situation shown in as shown in [link] .

Wavefronts are imaginary lines joining waves that are in phase. In the example, the wavefronts (shown by the grey, vertical lines) join all waves at the crest of their cycle.

We define a wavefront as the imaginary line that joins waves that are in phase. These are indicated by the grey, vertical lines in [link] . The points that are in phase can be peaks, troughs or anything in between, it doesn't matter which points you choose as long as they are in phase.

The huygens principle

Christiaan Huygens described how to determine the path of waves through a medium.

The Huygens Principle

Each point on a wavefront acts like a point source of circular waves. The waves emitted from these point sources interfere to form another wavefront.

A simple example of the Huygens Principle is to consider the single wavefront in [link] .

A single wavefront at time t acts as a series of point sources of circular waves that interfere to give a new wavefront at a time t + Δ t . The process continues and applies to any shape of waveform.

Given the wavefront,

use the Huygens Principle to determine the wavefront at a later time.

Interesting fact

Christiaan Huygens (14 April 1629 - 8 July 1695), was a Dutch mathematician, astronomer and physicist; born in The Hague as the son of Constantijn Huygens. He studied law at the University of Leiden and the College of Orange in Breda before turning to science. Historians commonly associate Huygens with the scientific revolution.

Huygens generally receives minor credit for his role in the development of modern calculus. He also achieved note for his arguments that light consisted of waves; see: wave-particle duality in Chapter  [link] . In 1655, he discovered Saturn's moon Titan. He also examined Saturn's planetary rings, and in 1656 he discovered that those rings consisted of rocks. In the same year he observed and sketched the Orion Nebula. He also discovered several interstellar nebulae and some double stars.


Interference occurs when two identical waves pass through the same region of space at the same time resulting in a superposition of waves. There are two types of interference which is of interest: constructive interference and destructive interference.

Constructive interference occurs when both waves have a displacement in the same direction, while destructive interference occurs when one wave has a displacement in the opposite direction to the other, thereby resulting in a cancellation. When two waves interfere destructively, the resultant absolute displacement of the medium is less than in either of the individual displacements. When total destructive interference occurs, there is no displacement of the medium. For constructive interference the displacement of the medium is greater than the individual displacements.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Maths test. OpenStax CNX. Feb 09, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11236/1.2
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