Home Laser Metrology LM-0100 Michelson Laser Interferometer


  • Properties of Laser Radiation
  • Two Beam Interference
  • Fringe Contrast
  • Coherence Length
  • Fringe Detection

Basic experiment

Intended institutions and users:

Physics Laboratory

Engineering department

Electronic department

Biophotonics department

Physics education in Medicine



How it works ...


LM-0100 Michelson Laser Interferometer

Already in 1881 A. A. Michelson constructed an interferometer, which later on also got his name, to counter prove successfully the theory of an universal ether assumed to be existing at that time. Later on he determined with this set-up the length of the basic meter in units of light wavelengths. Still, the promising use of interferometers in performing technical length measurements only reached significance after the discovery of the laser as a coherent light source.

Today this contact less working high precision length measuring instruments have become an important tool for many areas of the machine building, industry like adjustment, final control, incremental displacement measurement for CNC machines, the control of machine tools and for calibration procedures. With the newest laser interferometers resolutions up to the nanometre range can be realised. The arrangement of the optical components has changed with regard to the original Michelson interferometer by the use of lasers as light sources. But with some exceptions generally the two beam arrangements of Michelson is used. Within the frame of this experiment first the classical interferometer is setup and the interference pattern are observed on a screen. To understand the observed interference pattern the properties of Gaussian beams, wave fronts, radii of curvature and the superimposition of waves are discussed in the theoretical part of the manual.

Starting with a simple model of monochromatic radiation, the spectral bandwidth of a light source will be considered and the influence on the contrast of the interferometer discussed. The coherence length is introduced, defined and measured.

The applied HeNe-Laser emits two orthogonally polarised modes with a coherence length of about 18 cm. In a second step the Michelson setup is upgraded to an technical interferometer.


LM-0100 Michelson Laser Interferometer



LM-0100 Michelson Laser Interferometer

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