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15 October 2012 Teaching Fraunhofer diffraction via experimental and simulated images in the laboratory
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Diffraction is an important phenomenon introduced to Physics university students in a subject of Fundamentals of Optics. In addition, in the Physics Degree syllabus of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, there is an elective subject in Applied Optics. In this subject, diverse diffraction concepts are discussed in-depth from different points of view: theory, experiments in the laboratory and computing exercises. In this work, we have focused on the process of teaching Fraunhofer diffraction through laboratory training. Our approach involves students working in small groups. They visualize and acquire some important diffraction patterns with a CCD camera, such as those produced by a slit, a circular aperture or a grating. First, each group calibrates the CCD camera, that is to say, they obtain the relation between the distances in the diffraction plane in millimeters and in the computer screen in pixels. Afterwards, they measure the significant distances in the diffraction patterns and using the appropriate diffraction formalism, they calculate the size of the analyzed apertures. Concomitantly, students grasp the convolution theorem in the Fourier domain by analyzing the diffraction of 2-D gratings of elemental apertures. Finally, the learners use a specific software to simulate diffraction patterns of different apertures. They can control several parameters: shape, size and number of apertures, 1-D or 2-D gratings, wavelength, focal lens or pixel size.Therefore, the program allows them to reproduce the images obtained experimentally, and generate others by changingcertain parameters. This software has been created in our research group, and it is freely distributed to the students in order to help their learning of diffraction. We have observed that these hands on experiments help students to consolidate their theoretical knowledge of diffraction in a pedagogical and stimulating learning process.
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Alba Peinado, Josep Vidal, Juan Carlos Escalera, Angel Lizana, Juan Campos, and Maria Yzuel "Teaching Fraunhofer diffraction via experimental and simulated images in the laboratory", Proc. SPIE 8481, Optics Education and Outreach II, 84810D (15 October 2012);

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