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Constructive interference is the result of two waves with similar phase overlapping. This means that positive parts of one wave tend to overlap with positive parts of the other, and alike for the negative parts. When positive is added to positive and negative is added to negative, the net absolute displacement of the medium is greater than the displacements of the individual waves.

Destructive interference, on the other hand, is the result of two waves with non-similar phase (i.e. anti-phase) overlapping. This means that the positive parts of one wave tend to align with the negative parts of the second wave. When the waves are added together, the positive and negative contributions lead to a net absolute displacement of the medium which is less than the absolute displacements of either of the individual waves. A place where destructive interference takes place is called a node.

Waves can interfere at places where there is never a trough and trough or peak and peak or trough and peak at the same time. At these places the waves will add together and the resultant displacement will be the sum of the two waves but they won't be points of maximum interference.

Consider the two identical waves shown in the picture below. The wavefronts of the peaks are shown as black lines while the wavefronts of the troughs are shown as grey lines. You can see that the black lines cross other black lines in many places. This means two peaks are in the same place at the same time so we will have constructive interference where the two peaks add together to form a bigger peak.

Two points sources (A and B) radiate identical waves. The wavefronts of the peaks (black lines) and troughs (grey lines) are shown. Constructive interference occurs where two black lines intersect or where two gray lines intersect. Destructive interference occurs where a black line intersects with a grey line.

When the grey lines cross other grey lines there are two troughs in the same place at the same time so we will have constructive interference where the two troughs add together to form a bigger trough.

In the case where a grey line crosses a black line we are seeing a trough and peak at the same time. These will cancel each other out and the medium will have no displacement at that point.

  • black line + black line = peak + peak = constructive interference
  • grey line + grey line = trough + trough = constructive interference
  • black line + grey line = grey line + black line = peak + trough = trough + peak = destructive interference

On half the picture below, we have marked the constructive interference with a solid black diamond and the destructive interference with a hollow diamond.

To see if you understand it, cover up the half we have marked with diamonds and try to work out which points are constructive and destructive on the other half of the picture. The two halves are mirror images of each other so you can check yourself.


One of the most interesting, and also very useful, properties of waves is diffraction .

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
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit 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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