Interferometry makes use of the principle of superposition to combine waves in a way that will cause the result of their combination to have some meaningful property that is diagnostic of the original state of the waves. This works because when two waves with the same frequency combine, the resulting intensity pattern is determined by the phase difference between the two waves—waves that are in phase will undergo constructive interference while waves that are out of phase will undergo destructive interference. Waves which are not completely in phase nor completely out of phase will have an intermediate intensity pattern, which can be used to determine their relative phase difference. Most interferometers use light or some other form of electromagnetic wave.

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Typical application of interferometry can be found in physics and astronomy, for example by using high-resolution observations using the technique of aperture synthesis, mixing signals from a cluster of comparatively small telescopes rather than a single very expensive monolithic telescope.

Also in biology a kind of optical interferometry is used, which provides sensitive metrology capabilities for the measurement of biomolecules, subcellular components, cells and tissues.

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