Interference of light has numerous metrological applications because the optical path difference (OPD) can be varied at will between the interfering waves in the interferometers. We show how one can desirably change the optical path difference in diffraction. This leads to many novel and interesting metrological applications including high-precision measurements of displacement, phase change, refractive index profile, temperature gradient, diffusion coefficient, and coherence parameters, to name only a few. The subject fundamentally differs from interferometry in the sense that in the latter the measurement criterion is the change in intensity or fringe location, while in the former the criterion is the change in the visibility of fringes with an already known intensity profile. The visibility can vary from zero to one as the OPD changes by a half-wave. Therefore, measurements with the accuracy of a few nanometers are quite feasible. Also, the possibility of changing the OPD in diffraction allows us to use Fresnel diffraction in Fourier spectrometry, to enhance or suppress diffracted fields, and to build phase singularities that have many novel and useful applications.
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