Diffraction Grating: Does Light Excite Electrons or Pass Through Holes?

In summary, the question is whether the incoming light in a wire diffraction grating excites the electrons in the metal, causing them to scatter new light, or if the light simply passes through the holes in the mesh and gets absorbed by the grating. Some sources explain it as the former, while others explain it as the latter. However, it is the path separations that cause the diffraction effect, with each photon interfering with itself.
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Simple question about this:

Say you have a wire diffraction grating. Does the incoming light excite the electrons in the metal, which scatter new light *or* does the incoming light simply pass through the "holes" in the mesh and get absorbed by the grating? I've seen it explained both ways, yet they seem incompatible.

Thanks!
 
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  • #2
It is only the path separations which cause every photon to interfere with itself creating the diffraction you see.
 
  • #3
jerromyjon said:
It is only the path separations which cause every photon to interfere with itself creating the diffraction you see.

I get that. I had always understood these gratings as allowing the "original" light to pass through the holes in them, then interfere with itself. However, I recently read (Feynman Lectures) that the light excites the elections in the metal grating, and that is what emits the light which forms the pattern.
 

1. How does diffraction grating work?

Diffraction grating is a device that splits a beam of light into its component wavelengths, similar to a prism. It does this by using a series of parallel, closely spaced slits or grooves that act as small sources of light. When the light passes through these slits, it diffracts, or bends, creating a pattern of bright and dark spots that can be observed on a screen.

2. Can diffraction grating be used to determine the wavelength of light?

Yes, diffraction grating is commonly used in optical instruments, such as spectrometers, to accurately measure the wavelength of light. By measuring the distance between the diffracted spots on the screen and using the known distance between the slits, the wavelength of the light can be calculated using the diffraction equation.

3. Does light excite electrons or pass through holes in diffraction grating?

In diffraction grating, light primarily passes through holes, although some of it may also excite electrons in the material of the grating. The degree to which each of these processes occurs depends on the specific material and design of the grating, as well as the characteristics of the incident light.

4. How is diffraction grating used in everyday life?

Diffraction grating has a wide range of practical applications, including in optical instruments, such as spectrometers and telescopes, as well as in various technologies, such as barcode scanners and CD/DVD players. It is also used in scientific research, such as in the study of atomic and molecular spectra.

5. Are there different types of diffraction grating?

Yes, there are several types of diffraction grating, including ruled gratings, holographic gratings, and zone plates. These different types have varying groove spacing and orientations, which can affect the diffraction patterns produced. Additionally, there are also different materials used for diffraction gratings, such as glass, metal, or even plastic, depending on the intended application.

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