Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

If double slit experiment is done in a environment with air, then slits could also contain air made up of (approx. 80% nitrogen, 20% oxygen), then there is not empty space inside the slit. How can it affect the experiment? Has it been taken in account? What are specific requirement to define the slit?

If it were not that way. Why it doesn't affect the measurement?

share|cite|improve this question
In English sentences starts with capital ('big') letters. Also: 'environment', 'contain', 'approx.'. And it is good to start questions with a new line. Correctly written and well formatted question has higher chance of being answered well. – Piotr Migdal Mar 4 '11 at 13:22
@Piotr Migdal corrected, thanks – HDE Mar 4 '11 at 13:32

Air is everywhere, not only in slit, but also in the optical path before and after the slit.

However, interaction with transparent media (e.g. air, water, glass) can be easily included: by use of refractive index $n$. Then you know that wavelength in medium is $$\lambda = \frac{\lambda_0}{n},$$ where $\lambda_0$ is the wavelength in the vacuum.

If in the slit there were glass - still it is easy to calculate the outcome. (Just you need to include the phase shift caused by it.)

share|cite|improve this answer
+1, Thanks, I am trying to understand the required properties of the wall material, then understanding the difference with the envieroment helps a lot – HDE Mar 4 '11 at 13:22

The air will simply introduce a small amount of additional noise into the experiment due to scattering. The majority of the photons will not scatter off the air molecules.

The optical path lengths will also be changed, but not by much. For example, the troughs in the interference pattern will occur when the optical path lengths of the paths to that point are out of phase. Since the optical path lengths in vacuum and air differ by a factor of $n_\mathrm{Air} = 1.00027$ for an arbitrarily chosen visible wavelength of 500 nm, the air has hardly any effect.

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.