GIPHOTOSTOCK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GIPHOTOSTOCK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Filament of an incandescent lightbulb observed through a diffraction grating Diffraction grating is an optical element whose properties are periodically modulated in one dimension. Transmissive diffraction gratings consist of many thin lines of either absorptive material or thin grooves (indentations) on an otherwise transparent substrate. Light transmission through a diffraction grating occurs along discrete directions, called diffraction orders. Here an incandescent lightbulb is photographed through a transmissive holographic diffraction grating. The zeroth order does not exhibit diffraction (bright white filament) while the two first orders occur at distinct diffraction angles that camera lens translates into distinct positions on the sensor. Moreover different wavelengths (colours) of incident white light diffract slightly differently, leading to the apparent spectral decomposition.
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