IGCSE Physics Waves.

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IGCSE Physics Waves

Lesson 5 – Diffraction and the wave equation
Aims: To recall and use the relationship between the speed, frequency and wavelength of a wave: wave speed = frequency × wavelength, v = f × λ To understand that waves can be diffracted through gaps or when they pass an edge, and that the extent of diffraction depends on the wavelength and the physical dimension of the gap.

paddle vibrates to produce waves
The ripple tank A ripple tank is a device used to study the behaviour of waves, because all waves behave in a similar manner. paddle vibrates to produce waves A ripple tank produces water waves that can be reflected, refracted and diffracted.

Reflection and refraction
What do you think will happen if a barrier is placed in front of the water waves? paddle If it is a plane barrier then the waves are reflected. What do you think will happen if a block is submerged in the ripple tank? barrier The change in depth of the water causes a change in speed of the waves – they are refracted.

Barrier with large gap What will happen if the width of the gap in the barrier is larger than the wavelength of the waves? The waves pass through the gap unchanged apart from slight diffraction of the waves near their ends.

Diffraction through a big gap
Shadow zone We often imagine that waves passing through a big gap will behave like this.

Diffraction occurs at edges
In reality the waves curve slightly when they pass the edges of the gap.

Barrier with wavelength-sized gap
What will happen if the width of the gap in the barrier is similar in width to the wavelength of the waves? Circular waves are produced. This effect is known as diffraction.

Diffraction Diffraction is the bending of waves as they pass through a gap or past an edge When a wave (front) is Incident on an edge or an obstacle/slit/gap Wave ‘bends’ into the geometrical shadow/changes direction/spreads

Diffraction effects are most obvious when the object or aperture causing the diffraction is similar in size to the wavelength of the waves.

Less occurs if wavelength is smaller than the object.
More occurs if wavelength is larger than the object.

The nearer the slit size is to the wavelength, the more the wave will diffract.
1. The smaller the gap the greater the diffraction. 2. The longer the wavelength the greater the diffraction

diffraction of plane waves

Water wave diffraction
When a water wave hits an obstacle, the waves spread out round the edge and becomes curved. A small gap will cause more diffraction than a large gap. The wavelength of the wave is not changed in diffraction.

Sound wave diffraction
Sound waves have wavelengths from about 15 m down to 2 cm. Many everyday objects are the same size as sound waves – this causes a lot of diffraction. This is why we can hear someone talking to us who is not directly in our line of sight. Sound waves diffract when they pass through doors or move past the edges of walls. Diffraction of sound should not be confused with reflection of sound (echos).

Diffraction of Sound How can the teacher in the corridor hear the school band even though he isn’t in the hall?

Light wave diffraction
Visible light waves are tiny less than a millionth of metre in length. There are not many things in our everyday lives that are this small so we do not see any diffraction of light waves. We can only see light that comes directly towards us or has reflected off another surface. Radio waves are much larger and diffract when they pass hills and buildings so that we can receive signals.