Interferometry

Interferometry is a technique which uses the interference of superimposed waves to extract information.[1] Interferometry typically uses electromagnetic waves and is an important investigative technique in the fields of astronomy, fiber optics, engineering metrology, optical metrology, oceanography, seismology, spectroscopy (and its applications to chemistry), quantum mechanics, nuclear and particle physics, plasma physics, remote sensing, biomolecular interactions, surface profiling, microfluidics, mechanical stress/strain measurement, velocimetry, optometry, and making holograms.[2]:1–2

Figure 1. The light path through a Michelson interferometer. The two light rays with a common source combine at the half-silvered mirror to reach the detector. They may either interfere constructively (strengthening in intensity) if their light waves arrive in phase, or interfere destructively (weakening in intensity) if they arrive out of phase, depending on the exact distances between the three mirrors.

Interferometers are devices that extract information from interference. They are widely used in science and industry for the measurement of microscopic displacements, refractive index changes and surface irregularities. In the case with most interferometers, light from a single source is split into two beams that travel in different optical paths, which are then combined again to produce interference; two incoherent sources can also be made to interfere under some circumstances though.[3] The resulting interference fringes give information about the difference in optical path lengths. In analytical science, interferometers are used to measure lengths and the shape of optical components with nanometer precision; they are the highest precision length measuring instruments in existence. In Fourier transform spectroscopy they are used to analyze light containing features of absorption or emission associated with a substance or mixture. An astronomical interferometer consists of two or more separate telescopes that combine their signals, offering a resolution equivalent to that of a telescope of diameter equal to the largest separation between its individual elements.


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