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TeachSpin, Buffalo, NY

Modern Interferometry

Dates:   June 20, 2022  to  June 22, 2022

Number of setups available: 1

Maximum number of participants: 2


Interferometry has been a very direct illustration of the wave nature of light for over a century, but with the invention of the laser, and the addition of quantitative electronic detection, it has become a wonderfully versatile and sensitive measurement technique. This workshop will teach by participation that interferometers are not just instruments to use, but are also systems that can be built, aligned, and fully understood.

The workshop will use the versatile apparatus offered by TeachSpin to illustrate several distinct topologies of interferometers (Michelson, Sagnac, and Mach-Zehnder). The emphasis will include not only the theory and use, but also the full assembly and alignment of these interferometers. Then there are a host of applications of the amazing sensitivity of interferometers, and some of these will be chosen to match participants' interests. Among other accomplishments, we'll detect nanometer displacements in real time, and also learn how to keep track of ‘fringe count’ during bi-directional motion.

Interferometry exercises the visual and tactile imaginations of its practitioners to a remarkable degree. Participants need to bring an appetite for hands-on tabletop optics, and a lab notebook. Those who wish may bring an oscilloscope with which they're familiar.

Host and Mentor:

David Van Baak is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Calvin College. His academic career included teaching and developing in the advanced-lab at Calvin College from 1980 through 2014; and since 2005 it has included collaborations with TeachSpin. Since 2014 he has been full time at Teachspin.

Two career-long interests of his, in optics and instrumentation, are united in tabletop visible-light interferometry. His first interferometer experience came with a PSSC device during high school in 1969, and he has used various interferometers in learning, teaching, and research ever since then. His recent acquaintance with interferometry came in designing an educational system with TeachSpin. That led me to consider various interferometer topologies, and a wide variety of possible applications of interferometry. Can an interferometer solve a teaching, or measurement, problem for you?

Dr. David A. Van Baak, Teachspin, Inc., 2495 Main Street, Suite 409, Buffalo NY 14214-2153. Email: Telephone: 716-885-4701.

Please note that the Jonathan F. Reichert Foundation has established a grant program to help purchase apparatus used in Laboratory Immersions. Limitations and exclusions apply, but generally speaking the Foundation may support up to 40% of the cost of the required equipment.

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