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Chapter 10 – Wave Optics

The Wave Optics Chapter contains the following Topics and Sub-Topics and are available on MSVgo:


The basic principle of wave optics posits that light travels as a wave. This means that it can bend around objects, diffract, and interfere. In the optical region, the wavelength of light is about half a micrometer. 

This allows it to bend around obstacles of approximately the same size and be seen on the other side. However, if the obstacle is larger, the light will not be able to bend and cannot be seen on the other side either.

This property holds for waves, in general. For example, sound waves also demonstrate this property. Typically, a sound wave of your speech has a wavelength of about 50 cm to 1 meter.

In 1678, Dutch physicist, Christiaan Huygens had proposed the wave theory of light. This later became the cornerstone of wave optics and was used to derive laws of reflection and refraction. 

According to this principle, every single point in a wave front can potentially produce secondary waves, and if you draw a tangent to all these spheres, it will give you the new position of the wave front at a later time.

If the shape of the waterfront at t=0, the Huygens Wave Theory will allow you to determine the shape of the waterfront at a later time τ.

Using an equation set, Maxwell had described the laws of electricity and magnetism and arrived at the famous wave equation. The latter was used to predict the existence of electromagnetic waves.

The wave equation gives the speed of electromagnetic waves in free space, that puts the theoretical value of the speed of light almost close to its measured value. 

His theory posited that light is an electromagnetic wave, that changes with varying electric and magnetic fields. The latter leads to the emergence of electromagnetic waves, even in a vacuum.

A wavefront is defined as a surface of constant phase. A wavefront’s speed is measured by the speed at which it moves outward from the source. The wave energy travels in a perpendicular direction to the wavefront. Wave normal simply denotes a perpendicular drawn to the surface of waves.

In wave optics, there are two types of light sources:

1. Coherent sources emit light waves of the same wavelength and frequency. They have the same phase or a constant phase difference. To produce coherent waves, you can choose either of these two methods:

Division of Wavefront: The process of dividing the wavefront into two or more parts by using mirrors, lenses, or prisms.

Wave Optics

Division of Amplitude: In this method, you can divide the amplitude of an incoming beam with the help of partial reflection or refraction.

2.  Incoherent sources emit light waves that are characterized by frequent and random phase differences between photons. A popular example is the typical fluorescent tubes that you come across.

Wherever you witness two or more sources of light illuminating the same point, it means the principle of superposition is at play. This happens because there are interference terms, in addition to the sum of the individual intensities when you consider the intensity of light at the given point. Note that this occurrence is only true when the sources have the same frequency and stable phase difference, or a non-zero average.

In plane polarized light, the component electric field oscillates just like in ordinary light. The only and most significant difference, however, is that here the oscillation takes place in one single plane. The component magnetic field also oscillates within a single plane, and perpendicular to the electric field. In contrast, non-polarized light oscillates in multiple directions.

If you consider the vibration of a string in an x-z plane, generating a z-polarized wave, its displacement is given by,

z (x,t) = α sin (kx – ωt)

The study of wave optics is incomplete without understanding the basic properties of waves. There are four parts to waves:

  • Frequency

This is simply the number of waves passing through a point in a certain amount of time. Higher frequency is associated with greater energy produced by the waves since they are more tightly bound. Frequency is expressed by the formula,

f = 1/T, where f is the wave frequency in Hertz and T denotes the time period in seconds, or,

f = velocity/ wavelength = v/λ, where f is the wave frequency in Hertz, v is the velocity in metres/second, and λ denotes the wavelength.

  • Amplitude

The distance between a line through the middle of a wave and a crest or a trough. The highest point of a transverse wave is the crest, while its lowest point is the trough. Amplitude is expressed by the following equation,

y = Asin(ωt+φ), where y is the displacement of wave in meters, A denotes the amplitude, and ω is the angular frequency.

  • Wavelength

The distance between the crest of one wave and the crest of the very next wave gives you the wavelength. It is calculated as,

λ = velocity/ frequency = v/f, where λ denotes the wavelength, v is the velocity and f is the frequency of waves.

  • Speed

The distance travelled by a wave in a given amount of time is the speed of a wave. It is expressed with the following equation,

v = λf, where v is the velocity, λ is the wavelength and f is the frequency of the wave.

Wave Optics is a scoring topic in both boards as well as competition. You can check more about wave optics and more such topics with practical examples bringing the concept to life with videos on our MSVgo app.

High School Physics

  • Alternating Current
  • Atoms
  • Communication Systems
  • Current Electricity
  • Dual nature of Radiation and Matter
  • Electric Charges and Fields
  • Electricity
  • Electromagnetic Induction
  • Electromagnetic Waves
  • Electron Beams and Radioactivity
  • Electrons and Photons
  • Electrostatic Potential and Capacitance
  • Fluid Pressure
  • Force and Acceleration
  • Force And Laws Of Motion
  • Gravitation
  • Internal Energy
  • Kinetic Theory
  • Law of motion
  • Light – Reflection And Refraction
  • Magnetic Effects Of Electric Current
  • Magnetism and Matter
  • Management Of Natural Resources
  • Mechanical properties of Fluids
  • Mechanical properties of Solids
  • Motion
  • Motion in a plane
  • Motion in a straight line
  • Moving Charges and Magnetism
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Nuclei
  • Oscillations
  • Our Environment
  • Paths of Heat
  • Physical world
  • Ray optics and optical instruments
  • Semiconductor Devices
  • Semiconductor Electronics: Materials, Devices and Simple Circuits
  • Simple Machines
  • Sound
  • Sources Of Energy
  • Specific and Latent Heats
  • Spherical Mirrors
  • Static Electricity
  • Systems of Particles and Rotational motion
  • Thermal properties of matter
  • Thermodynamics
  • Units and Measurement
  • Vectors, Scalar Quantities and Elementary Calculus
  • Wave Optics
  • Waves
  • Work, Power and Energy

High School Chemistry

  • Acids, Bases and Salts
  • Alcohols, Phenols and Ethers
  • Aldehydes, Ketones and Carboxylic Acids
  • Aliphatic and Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Alkyl and Aryl Halides
  • Amines
  • Analytical Chemistry 
  • Atomic Structure
  • Atoms And Molecules
  • Basic concepts of Chemistry
  • Biomolecules
  • Carbon And Its Compounds
  • Carboxylic acids and Acid Derivatives
  • Chemical Bonding and Molecular Structures
  • Chemical Energetics
  • Chemical Equilibria
  • Chemical Kinetics
  • Chemical Reactions And Equations
  • Chemical Reactions and Their Mechanisms
  • Chemistry in Everyday Life
  • Chemistry of p-Block elements
  • Chemistry of Transition and Inner Transition
  • Classification of Elements
  • Coordination Compounds
  • Cyanide, Isocyanide, Nitro compounds and Amines
  • Electrochemistry
  • Electrolysis
  • Elements, Compounds and Mixtures
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Equilibrium
  • Ethers and Carbonyl compounds
  • Haloalkanes and Haloarenes
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Hydrogen
  • Ideal solutions
  • Introduction to Organic Chemistry
  • Ionic equilibria
  • Matter
  • Matter Around Us
  • Matter In Our Surroundings
  • Metallurgy
  • Metals And Non-Metals
  • Mole Concept and Stoichiometry
  • Natural Resources
  • Organic Chemistry – Basic Principles
  • Periodic Classification of Elements
  • Physical and Chemical Changes
  • Physical and Chemical Properties of Water
  • Polymers
  • Preparation, Properties and Uses of Compounds
  • Principles and Processes of Isolation of Elements
  • Redox Reactions
  • Relative Molecular Mass and Mole
  • States of Matter
  • Structure Of The Atom
  • Study of Compounds
  • Study of Gas Laws
  • Study of Representative Elements
  • Surface Chemistry
  • The d-block and f-block elements
  • The Gaseous State
  • The p-Block Elements
  • The Periodic Table
  • The s-Block Elements
  • The Solid State
  • Thermodynamics

High School Biology

  • Absorption and Movement of Water in Plants
  • Adolescent Issues
  • Anatomy of Flowering Plants
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Bacteria and Fungi-Friends and Foe
  • Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Biofertilizers
  • Biological Classification
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomolecules
  • Biotechnology and its Applications
  • Biotic Community
  • Body Fluids and Circulation
  • Breathing and Exchange of Gases
  • Cell – Unit of Life
  • Cell Cycle and Cell Division
  • Cell Division and Structure of Chromosomes
  • Cell Reproduction
  • Cellular Respiration
  • Chemical Coordination and Integration
  • Circulation
  • Control And Coordination
  • Crop Improvement
  • Digestion and Absorption
  • Diversity In Living Organisms
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Issues
  • Excretory Products and their Elimination
  • Flowering Plants
  • Genes and Chromosomes
  • Health and Diseases
  • Health and Its Significance
  • Heredity And Evolution
  • Heredity and Variation
  • How Do Organisms Reproduce?
  • Human Diseases
  • Human Eye And Colourful World
  • Human Health and Disease
  • Human Population
  • Human Reproduction
  • Hygiene
  • Improvement In Food Resources
  • Integumentary System- Skin
  • Kingdom Fungi
  • Kingdom Monera
  • Kingdom Protista
  • Life Processes
  • Locomotion and Movement
  • Microbes in Human Welfare
  • Mineral Nutrition
  • Molecular Basis of Inheritance
  • Morphology of Flowering Plants
  • Neural Control And Coordination
  • Nutrition in Human Beings
  • Organism and Population
  • Photosynthesis
  • Photosynthesis in Higher Plants
  • Plant Growth and Development
  • Plant Kingdom
  • Pollination and Fertilization
  • Pollution; Sources and its effects
  • Principles of Inheritance and Variation
  • Reproduction and Development in Angiosperms
  • Reproduction in Organisms
  • Reproductive Health
  • Respiration in Human Beings
  • Respiration in Plants
  • Respiratory System
  • Sexual Reproduction in Flowering Plants
  • Strategies for Enhancement in Food Production
  • Structural Organisation in Animals
  • Structural Organisation of the Cell
  • The Endocrine System
  • The Fundamental Unit Of Life
  • The Living World
  • The Nervous System and Sense Organs
  • Tissues
  • Transpiration
  • Transport in Plants

High School Math

  • Algebra – Arithmatic Progressions
  • Algebra – Complex Numbers and Quadratic Equations
  • Algebra – Linear Inequalities
  • Algebra – Pair of Linear Equations in Two Variables
  • Algebra – Polynomials
  • Algebra – Principle of Mathematical Induction
  • Algebra – Quadratic Equations
  • Binomial Theorem
  • Calculus – Applications of Derivatives
  • Calculus – Applications of the Integrals
  • Calculus – Continuity and Differentiability
  • Calculus – Differential Equations
  • Calculus – Integrals
  • Geometry – Area
  • Geometry – Circles
  • Geometry – Conic Sections
  • Geometry – Constructions
  • Geometry – Introduction to Euclid’s Geometry
  • Geometry – Three-dimensional Geometry
  • Geometry – Lines and Angles
  • Geometry – Quadrilaterals
  • Geometry – Straight Lines
  • Geometry – Triangles
  • Linear Programming
  • Matrices and Determinants
  • Mensuration – Areas
  • Mensuration – Surface Areas and Volumes
  • Number Systems
  • Number Systems – Real Numbers
  • Permutations and Combinations
  • Probability
  • Sequence and Series
  • Sets and Functions
  • Statistics 
  • Trignometry – Height and Distance
  • Trignometry – Identities
  • Trignometry – Introduction

Middle School Science

  • Acids, Bases And Salts
  • Air and Its Constituents
  • Basic Biology
  • Body Movements
  • Carbon and Its Compounds
  • Cell – Structure And Functions
  • Changes Around Us
  • Chemical Effects Of Electric Current
  • Chemistry in Your Life
  • Coal And Petroleum
  • Combustion And Flame
  • Components Of Food
  • Conservation Of Plants And Animals
  • Crop Production And Management
  • Electric Current And Its Effects
  • Electricity And Circuits
  • Elements and Compounds
  • Fibre To Fabric
  • Food production and management
  • Force And Pressure
  • Forests: Our Lifeline
  • Friction
  • Fun With Magnets
  • Garbage In, Garbage Out
  • Getting To Know Plants
  • Health and Hygiene
  • Heat
  • Hydrogen
  • Life Processes: Nutrition in Animals and Plants
  • Light, Shadows And Reflections
  • Materials: Metals And Non-Metals
  • Matter and Its States
  • Metals and Non-metals
  • Micro Organisms: Friend And Foe
  • Motion And Measurement Of Distances
  • Motion And Time
  • Nutrition In Animals
  • Nutrition In Plants
  • Organization in Living Things
  • Our Environment
  • Physical And Chemical Changes
  • Pollution and conservation
  • Pollution Of Air And Water
  • Reaching The Age Of Adolescence
  • Reproduction In Animals
  • Reproduction In Plants
  • Respiration In Organisms
  • Rocks and Minerals
  • Separation Of Substances
  • Simple Machines
  • Soil
  • Some Natural Phenomena
  • Sorting Materials Into Groups
  • Sound
  • Stars And The Solar System
  • Structure of Atom
  • Synthetic Fibers And Plastics
  • The Living Organisms And Their Surroundings
  • Transfer of Heat
  • Transformation of Substances
  • Transportation In Animals And Plants
  • Universe
  • Waste-water Story
  • Water: A Precious Resource
  • Weather, Climate And Adaptations Of Animals To Climate
  • Winds, Storms And Cyclones

Middle School Math

  • Addition
  • Area and Its Boundary
  • Boxes and Sketches
  • Data Handling
  • Fun With Numbers
  • Heavy and Light
  • How Many
  • Long And Short
  • Mapping
  • Measurement
  • Money
  • Multiplication and Factors
  • Multiply and Divide
  • Numbers
  • Parts and Wholes
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Patterns
  • Play With Patterns
  • Rupees And Paise
  • Shapes And Angles
  • Shapes And Designs
  • Shapes and Space
  • Similarity
  • Smart Charts
  • Squares
  • Subtraction
  • Tables And Shares
  • Tenths and Hundredths
  • Time
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