Huygens’ principle :

Huygens’ principle tells us that each point on a wavefront is a source of secondary waves, which add up to give the wavefront at a later time.
Huygens’ construction tells us that the new wavefront is the forward envelope of the secondary waves. When the speed of light is independent of direction, the secondary waves are spherical. The rays are then perpendicular to both the wavefronts and the time of travel is the same measured along any ray. This principle leads to the well-known laws of reflection and refraction.

Principle of Superposition :

The principle of superposition of waves applies whenever two or more sources of light illuminate the same point. When we consider the intensity of light due to these sources at the given point, there is an interference term in addition to the sum of the individual intensities. But this term is important only if it has a non-zero average, which occurs only if the sources have the same frequency and a stable phase difference.

Young’s double slit :

Young’s double slit of separation d gives equally spaced fringes of angular separation λ/d. The source, mid-point of the slits, and central bright fringe lie in a straight line. An extended source will destroy the fringes if it subtends angle more than λ/d at the slits.

Superposition Principle:

A single slit of width a gives a diffraction pattern with a central maximum.
The intensity falls to zero at angles of,
with successively weaker secondary maxima in between.
  • Diffraction limits the angular resolution of a telescope to λ/D where D is the diameter. Two stars closer than this give strongly overlapping images.
  • Similarly, a microscope objective subtending angle at the focus, in a medium of refractive index n, will just separate two objects spaced at a distance λ/(2n sin β), which is the resolution limit of a microscope.
  • Diffraction determines the limitations of the concept of light rays. A beam of width ‘a’ travels a distance a2, called the Fresnel distance, before it starts to spread out due to diffraction.
Natural light, e.g., from the sun is unpolarised. This means the electric vector takes all possible directions in the transverse plane, rapidly and randomly, during a measurement.
  • A polaroid transmits only one component (parallel to a special axis). The resulting light is called linearly polarised or plane polarised. When this kind of light is viewed through a second polaroid whose axis turns through , two maxima and minima of intensity are seen.
  • Polarised light can also be produced by reflection at a special angle (called the Brewster angle) and by scattering through π/2 in the earth’s atmosphere.

List of Topics​

Wave frontPlane, spherical and cylindrical wavefront
Huygens principle
Refraction and reflectionRefraction of plane wave (rarer to denser)
Refraction at a rarer medium
Snell’s law
Doppler’s effect
Coherent and Incoherent wavesCoherent sources
Theory of interference
Constructive and destructive interference
Young’s experimentSchematic representation and working
Fringe width
DiffractionExplanation of the phenomenon
The single slit
Diffraction due to a single slit
Intensity distribution curve
Resolving power of optical instrumentsLimit of resolution of (a) microscope and (b) telescope
Validity of ray optics
PolarisationPolarised and unpolarised light
Plane polarised light
Polaroid and its uses
Pass axis – Malus’ law
Polarisation by scattering
Polarisation by reflection
Brewster’s angle
Numerical ProblemsConcept based problems