6C20.20 Thin Wire Diffraction


Diffraction, Babinet's principle


When a laser beam is incident on a narrow opaque object such as a fine wire or a strand of hair, the resulting diffraction pattern is similar to the diffraction pattern of a slit of the same width as the object, in agreement with the Babinet's principle. The only difference is that the centre of the diffraction pattern of a wire looks brighter. This is because the undiffracted portion of beam adds to the intensity of the centre of the pattern.



  • [1] Fine wire attached to a holder
  • [1] Variable single slit
  • [2] He-Ne tube laser
  • [2] Optical rail
  • [4] Saddle
  • [2] Lab jack (if necessary)
  • [1] Extension cord (if necessary) 

Classroom Assembly

  1. Mount a laser and wire holder on opposite ends of the rail, making sure the laser is pointed away from people.
  2. Plug in the laser and aim it at the wire, maximizing the intensity and spread of the diffraction pattern.
  3. Use a lab jack to elevate the fringe pattern to a screen, if necessary.
  4. Repeat step 1 to 3 for a single slit.
  5. Turn off the lasers.

Important Notes

  • Lasers can cause blindness. Use with caution.


  1. Turn on the two lasers.
  2. Turn off the room lights to see the diffraction patterns more easily.
  3. Point out the diffraction pattern is the same for a fine wire and a single slit.
  4. Turn off the lasers.


Additional Resources


  • PIRA 6C20.20


  • Don't attempt this at home!

Last revised

  • 2020


  • Some people like diffracting hair.

Related AV

Related demos

  • Poisson's Bright Spot
  • Pinhole Diffraction

If you have any questions about the demos or notes you would like to add to this page, contact Ricky Chu at ricky_chu AT sfu DOT ca.