Diffraction pattern of red laser beam made on a plate after passing through a small circular aperture in another plate

Diffraction refers to various phenomena that occur when a wave encounters an obstacle or a slit. It is defined as the bending of light around the corners of an obstacle or aperture into the region of geometrical shadow of the obstacle. In classical physics, the diffraction phenomenon is described as the interference of waves according to the Huygens–Fresnel principle. These characteristic behaviors are exhibited when a wave encounters an obstacle or a slit that is comparable in size to its wavelength. Similar effects occur when a light wave travels through a medium with a varying refractive index, or when a sound wave travels through a medium with varying acoustic impedance. Diffraction occurs with all waves, including sound waves, water waves, and electromagnetic waves such as visible light, X-rays and radio waves.

Since physical objects have wave-like properties (at the atomic level), diffraction also occurs with matter and can be studied according to the principles of quantum mechanics. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1660. [1] [2]

While diffraction occurs whenever propagating waves encounter such changes, its effects are generally most pronounced for waves whose wavelength is roughly comparable to the dimensions of the diffracting object or slit. If the obstructing object provides multiple, closely spaced openings, a complex pattern of varying intensity can result. This is due to the addition, or interference, of different parts of a wave that travel to the observer by different paths, where different path lengths result in different phases (see diffraction grating and wave superposition). The formalism of diffraction can also describe the way in which waves of finite extent propagate in free space. For example, the expanding profile of a laser beam, the beam shape of a radar antenna and the field of view of an ultrasonic transducer can all be analyzed using diffraction equations.


Solar glory at the steam from hot springs. A glory is an optical phenomenon produced by light backscattered (a combination of diffraction, reflection and refraction) towards its source by a cloud of uniformly sized water droplets.

The effects of diffraction are often seen in everyday life. The most striking examples of diffraction are those that involve light; for example, the closely spaced tracks on a CD or DVD act as a diffraction grating to form the familiar rainbow pattern seen when looking at a disc. This principle can be extended to engineer a grating with a structure such that it will produce any diffraction pattern desired; the hologram on a credit card is an example. Diffraction in the atmosphere by small particles can cause a bright ring to be visible around a bright light source like the sun or the moon. A shadow of a solid object, using light from a compact source, shows small fringes near its edges. The speckle pattern which is observed when laser light falls on an optically rough surface is also a diffraction phenomenon. When deli meat appears to be iridescent, that is diffraction off the meat fibers. [3] All these effects are a consequence of the fact that light propagates as a wave.

Diffraction can occur with any kind of wave. Ocean waves diffract around jetties and other obstacles. Sound waves can diffract around objects, which is why one can still hear someone calling even when hiding behind a tree. [4] Diffraction can also be a concern in some technical applications; it sets a fundamental limit to the resolution of a camera, telescope, or microscope.

Other Languages
العربية: حيود
বাংলা: অপবর্তন
беларуская: Дыфракцыя
български: Дифракция
català: Difracció
čeština: Difrakce
chiShona: Bvurunuro
Cymraeg: Diffreithiant
Ελληνικά: Περίθλαση
Esperanto: Difrakto
فارسی: پراش
français: Diffraction
Gaeilge: Díraonadh
galego: Difracción
한국어: 회절
Հայերեն: Դիֆրակցիա
हिन्दी: विवर्तन
hrvatski: Ogib
Bahasa Indonesia: Difraksi
italiano: Diffrazione
עברית: עקיפה
қазақша: Дифракция
Kreyòl ayisyen: Difraksyon
Кыргызча: Дифракция
latviešu: Difrakcija
lietuvių: Difrakcija
magyar: Diffrakció
മലയാളം: വിഭംഗനം
मराठी: विवर्तन
монгол: Дифракц
Nederlands: Diffractie
日本語: 回折
norsk nynorsk: Diffraksjon
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਵਿਵਰਤਨ
Piemontèis: Difrassion
polski: Dyfrakcja
português: Difração
română: Difracție
русский: Дифракция
sicilianu: Diffrazzioni
සිංහල: විවර්තනය
Simple English: Diffraction
slovenčina: Difrakcia
slovenščina: Uklon
српски / srpski: Дифракција
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Difrakcija
Basa Sunda: Difraksi
suomi: Diffraktio
svenska: Diffraktion
తెలుగు: వివర్తనం
Türkçe: Kırınım
українська: Дифракція
اردو: انکسار
Tiếng Việt: Nhiễu xạ
中文: 衍射