# Diffraction Grating

When there is a need to separate light of different wavelengths with high resolution, then a diffraction grating is most often the tool of choice. This "super prism" aspect of the diffraction grating leads to application for measuring atomic spectra in both laboratory instruments and telescopes. A large number of parallel, closely spaced slits constitutes a diffraction grating. The condition for maximum intensity is the same as that for the double slit or multiple slits, but with a large number of slits the intensity maximum is very sharp and narrow, providing the high resolution for spectroscopic applications. The peak intensities are also much higher for the grating than for the double slit.

 When light of a single wavelength , like the 632.8nm red light from a helium-neon laser at left, strikes a diffraction grating it is diffracted to each side in multiple orders. Orders 1 and 2 are shown to each side of the direct beam. Different wavelengths are diffracted at different angles, according to the grating relationship.
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 Grating diffraction of helium-neon laser
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Grating concepts

Diffraction concepts

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# Diffraction Grating

A diffraction grating is the tool of choice for separating the colors in incident light.

This illustration is qualitative and intended mainly to show the clear separation of the wavelengths of light. There are multiple orders of the peaks associated with the interference of light through the multiple slits. The intensities of these peaks are affected by the diffraction envelope which is determined by the width of the single slits making up the grating. The overall grating intensity is given by the product of the intensity expressions for interference and diffraction. The relative widths of the interference and diffraction patterns depends upon the slit separation and the width of the individual slits, so the pattern will vary based upon those values.
 The condition for maximum intensity is the same as that for a double slit. However, angular separation of the maxima is generally much greater because the slit spacing is so small for a diffraction grating.

 The diffraction grating is an immensely useful tool for the separation of the spectral lines associated with atomic transitions. It acts as a "super prism", separating the different colors of light much more than the dispersion effect in a prism. The illustration shows the hydrogen spectrum. The hydrogen gas in a thin glass tube is excited by an electrical discharge and the spectrum can be viewed through the grating.
 The tracks of a compact disc act as a diffraction grating, producing a separation of the colors of white light. The nominal track separation on a CD is 1.6 micrometers, corresponding to about 625 tracks per millimeter. This is in the range of ordinary laboratory diffraction gratings. For red light of wavelength 600 nm, this would give a first order diffraction maximum at about 22° .
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Grating concepts

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