Diffraction happens when a wave hits an obstacle or gap, diffraction is greatest when the gap is about the same size as the wavelength of the wave. The waves bend round the object or spread out when they pass through the gap, this is called diffraction.
Single Slit Diffraction
When monochromatic laser light is shone through a narrow single slit a diffraction pattern is produced consisting of light and dark fringes. It produces a wide central bright fringe. The other bright fringes get dimmer as you move away from the centre.
A diffraction grating is a piece of glass with lots of closely spaced parallel lines on it each of which allows light to pass through it, this is a transmission diffraction grating.
Diffraction gratings are used in spectrometers. The diffraction grating splits up the light into a spectra.
d = grating spacing in metres (m)
J = angle of diffraction
n = order number
l = wavelength on the light in metres (m)
This equation can be rearranged to
If there are N lines per metre on a diffraction grating then d can be calculated using
Diffraction gratings are used in the spectral analysis of light from stars.