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published by the University of Salford
This multimedia tutorial provides explanations and models of wave diffraction.  It contains multiple images, animations, and interactive simulations designed to represent what happens when a wave encounters an obstacle.  The tutorial begins by explaining how the amount of diffraction depends on the wavelength and the size of the object being encountered.  It progresses to discussions of various diffraction effects, Huygen's Principle, and concludes with diffraction through two slits (a simulation of Young's classic experiment).

This item is part of a larger collection of multimedia tutorials on waves and acoustics, developed by the University of Salford, UK.  The tutorials are accompanied by more than 60 high-speed videos and animations that represent fundamental properties of waves.

Please note that this resource requires Shockwave, or at least version 6.0 of Flash.
Editor's Note: This resource is appropriate for algebra-based or AP high school physics, and would also serve well as a refresher tutorial for K-8 teachers. It was developed specifically to help learners visualize how waves of varying wavelength will diffract in predictable ways, and how this behavior is related to practical applications, like radio/TV broadcasting and acoustics.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Technology
= Multimedia
Oscillations & Waves
- Acoustics
- Wave Motion
= Interference and Diffraction
= Interference and Diffraction of Sound
= Phase and Group Velocity
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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© 2005 University of Salford, Greater Manchester, England, UK
Huygens' Principle, Young's Experiment, Young's double-slit, acoustics, diffraction, diffraction grating, double-slit experiment, double-slit simulation, video, wave simulations, waves, waves animations, waves tutorial, waves videos
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 23, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
July 9, 2013 by Bruce Mason
Last Update
when Cataloged:
October 12, 2007

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M4. Vibrations in materials set up wavelike disturbances that spread away from the source. Sound and earthquake waves are examples. These and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.
  • 6-8: 4F/M7. Wave behavior can be described in terms of how fast the disturbance spreads, and in terms of the distance between successive peaks of the disturbance (the wavelength).
  • 6-8: 4F/M8. There are a great variety of electromagnetic waves: radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, visible light, ultraviolet rays, X-rays, and gamma rays. These wavelengths vary from radio waves, the longest, to gamma rays, the shortest.
  • 9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M3. Different models can be used to represent the same thing. What model to use depends on its purpose.
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
11D. Scale
  • 6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: How Waves Move and Interact: Reflection, Refraction, Interference

When waves meet an obstacle or pass through small openings, they may appear to bend or spread out.  This phenomena is called diffraction.  We see examples of wave diffraction every day, but what is the physics behind it?  This exemplary tutorial offers a multimedia tour of diffraction around objects, diffraction through slits, and various effects of diffraction.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(University of Salford, Greater Manchester, 2005), WWW Document, (http://www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/feschools/waves/diffract.php).
University of Salford Tutorials: Diffraction, (University of Salford, Greater Manchester, 2005), <http://www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/feschools/waves/diffract.php>.
APA Format
University of Salford Tutorials: Diffraction. (2007, October 12). Retrieved June 27, 2017, from University of Salford: http://www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/feschools/waves/diffract.php
Chicago Format
University of Salford. University of Salford Tutorials: Diffraction. Greater Manchester: University of Salford, October 12, 2007. http://www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/feschools/waves/diffract.php (accessed 27 June 2017).
MLA Format
University of Salford Tutorials: Diffraction. Greater Manchester: University of Salford, 2005. 12 Oct. 2007. 27 June 2017 <http://www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/feschools/waves/diffract.php>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {University of Salford Tutorials: Diffraction}, Publisher = {University of Salford}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {27 June 2017}, Month = {October 12, 2007}, Year = {2005} }
Refer Export Format

%T University of Salford Tutorials: Diffraction
%D October 12, 2007
%I University of Salford
%C Greater Manchester
%U http://www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/feschools/waves/diffract.php
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D October 12, 2007
%T University of Salford Tutorials: Diffraction
%I University of Salford
%V 2017
%N 27 June 2017
%8 October 12, 2007
%9 text/html
%U http://www.acoustics.salford.ac.uk/feschools/waves/diffract.php

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