Journal article

The wave-particle duality of light: A demonstration experiment

  • Dimitrova, T. L. University of Plovdiv “Paissi Hilendarski,” Plovdiv, Bulgaria
  • Weis, Antoine Département de Physique, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland
Published in:
  • American Journal of Physics. - 2008, vol. 76, no. 2, p. 137-142
English The wave-particle duality of light plays a fundamental role in introductory courses on quantum mechanics. Traditionally the wave and particle aspects of light are demonstrated in separate experiments which makes it difficult for students to understand their complementary nature. We present an experiment using a single apparatus that demonstrates the wave aspect, the particle aspect, and most importantly, their coexistence. The apparatus is based on a Mach-Zehnder interferometer in which a light beam is attenuated so that at each instant there is only a single photon in the interferometer. In this way the observation of single photon interference becomes possible. By integrating the single photon events in a storage oscilloscope the evolution toward classical interference fringes can be shown in real time. A second strong laser beam, derived from the same pointer, but slightly displaced, traverses the interferometer at the same time, allowing the simultaneous demonstration of wave aspects. Special features of the setup are low cost, simplicity, didactical power and suitability for presentations in large lecture halls using both multimedia projections and audible signals.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Physique
  • English
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