Examples of Diffraction

Examples of Diffraction

Diffraction refers to those phenomena that occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. This phenomenon is basically the bending of light around the corners of an aperture or an obstacle. We have highlighted a few examples of diffraction of light/sound/radio in our daily life. Let’s go through them without further ado.

You’ll see the seven colors of the rainbow, on the hologram of a credit card/ debit card or other similar cards that exhibit such holograms.

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The rainbow pattern that you see on compact disks or DVDs is also a good example of diffraction of light. This rainbow pattern effect is mainly a side effect of their manufacture. One surface of a compact disk/DVD has many tiny pits in the plastic that are arranged within concentric rings. The surface has the application of a thin layer of metal that makes the pits more visible. The closely spaced tracks on a CD/DVD act as a form of diffraction grating to form the rainbow pattern.

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The similar effect discussed above can also be seen in a standard vinyl record. A standard vinyl record, when seen from a low angle perpendicular to the grooves, might actually provide a rainbow-like effect. This effect is much less defined than the ones seen in a CD/DVD but it actually happens which is our point here.

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Radio waves (specially AM) diffract when they come in contact with buildings. Radio waves bend around buildings and hence, the reception is still good on the opposite side.

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Diffraction of sound waves occurs when these waves pass through a door. The sound spreads as well as fills the room on the other side of the door. A simple way of explaining this phenomenon is to stand and talk in the hallway adjacent to your classroom. You’ll see that your friends inside your classroom will hear you speak. That phenomenon is called diffraction.

The setting sun is also a good example of the diffraction of light. The setting sun appears to be red because of the diffraction of light from dust particles in the atmosphere.

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Speaking into a microphone is a good example of diffraction of sound in daily life.

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Luncheon meat appears to be a little iridescent. This is mainly due to the diffraction of light from the meat fibers.

There are various other examples of diffraction grating present in nature that are:

  • The iridescent color of peacock feathers,
  • Butterfly wings,
  • Mother of pearl.

There are also several other insects having very fine regular structures where diffraction of light occurs.

So you see that you see several examples of diffraction in your very own daily life. You might not even be aware of the fact because you are so accustomed to the phenomenon. So next time you see a rainbow pattern on your CD/DVD, try to understand the principle of the phenomenon behind it. That principle is none other than the principle of the diffraction of light.

Sudipto Das

Sudipto writes technical and educational content periodically for wizert.com and backs it up with extensive research and relevant examples. He's an avid reader and a tech enthusiast at the same time with a little bit of “Arsenal Football Club” thrown in as well. He's got a B.Tech in Electronics and Instrumentation.
Follow him on twitter @SudiptoDas1993

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