# 3.4 Interference in thin films

 Page 1 / 7
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Describe the phase changes that occur upon reflection
• Describe fringes established by reflected rays of a common source
• Explain the appearance of colors in thin films

The bright colors seen in an oil slick floating on water or in a sunlit soap bubble are caused by interference. The brightest colors are those that interfere constructively. This interference is between light reflected from different surfaces of a thin film; thus, the effect is known as thin-film interference    .

As we noted before, interference effects are most prominent when light interacts with something having a size similar to its wavelength. A thin film is one having a thickness t smaller than a few times the wavelength of light, $\lambda$ . Since color is associated indirectly with $\lambda$ and because all interference depends in some way on the ratio of $\lambda$ to the size of the object involved, we should expect to see different colors for different thicknesses of a film, as in [link] .

What causes thin-film interference? [link] shows how light reflected from the top and bottom surfaces of a film can interfere. Incident light is only partially reflected from the top surface of the film (ray 1). The remainder enters the film and is itself partially reflected from the bottom surface. Part of the light reflected from the bottom surface can emerge from the top of the film (ray 2) and interfere with light reflected from the top (ray 1). The ray that enters the film travels a greater distance, so it may be in or out of phase with the ray reflected from the top. However, consider for a moment, again, the bubbles in [link] . The bubbles are darkest where they are thinnest. Furthermore, if you observe a soap bubble carefully, you will note it gets dark at the point where it breaks. For very thin films, the difference in path lengths of rays 1 and 2 in [link] is negligible, so why should they interfere destructively and not constructively? The answer is that a phase change can occur upon reflection, as discussed next.

## Changes in phase due to reflection

We saw earlier ( Waves ) that reflection of mechanical waves can involve a $180\text{°}$ phase change. For example, a traveling wave on a string is inverted (i.e., a $180\text{°}$ phase change) upon reflection at a boundary to which a heavier string is tied. However, if the second string is lighter (or more precisely, of a lower linear density), no inversion occurs. Light waves produce the same effect, but the deciding parameter for light is the index of refraction. Light waves undergo a $180\text{°}$ or $\pi$ radians phase change upon reflection at an interface beyond which is a medium of higher index of refraction. No phase change takes place when reflecting from a medium of lower refractive index ( [link] ). Because of the periodic nature of waves, this phase change or inversion is equivalent to $\text{±}\lambda \text{/}2$ in distance travelled, or path length. Both the path length and refractive indices are important factors in thin-film interference.

For the question about the scuba instructor's head above the pool, how did you arrive at this answer? What is the process?
as a free falling object increases speed what is happening to the acceleration
of course g is constant
Alwielland
acceleration also inc
Usman
which paper will be subjective and which one objective
jay
photo electrons doesn't emmit when electrons are free to move on surface of metal why?
What would be the minimum work function of a metal have to be for visible light(400-700)nm to ejected photoelectrons?
give any fix value to wave length
Rafi
40 cm into change mm
40cm=40.0×10^-2m =400.0×10^-3m =400mm. that cap(^) I have used above is to the power.
Prema
i.e. 10to the power -2 in the first line and 10 to the power -3 in the the second line.
Prema
there is mistake in my first msg correction is 40cm=40.0×10^-2m =400.0×10^-3m =400mm. sorry for the mistake friends.
Prema
40cm=40.0×10^-2m =400.0×10^-3m =400mm.
Prema
this msg is out of mistake. sorry friends​.
Prema
what is physics?
why we have physics
because is the study of mater and natural world
John
because physics is nature. it explains the laws of nature. some laws already discovered. some laws yet to be discovered.
Yoblaze
is this a physics forum
explain l-s coupling
how can we say dirac equation is also called a relativistic equation in one word
what is the electronic configration of Al
what's the signeficance of dirac equetion.?
what is the effect of heat on refractive index
As refractive index depend on other factors also but if we supply heat on any system or media its refractive index decrease. i.e. it is inversely proportional to the heat.
ganesh
you are correct
Priyojit
law of multiple
Wahid
if we heated the ice then the refractive index be change from natural water
Nepal
can someone explain normalization condition
Swati
yes
Chemist
1 millimeter is How many metres
1millimeter =0.001metre
Gitanjali