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INDEX OF REFRACTION

Pineda, Ram Lewis N, PHY13L/A2
ramlewis27@gmail.com

Abstract
This paper was written to further understand the concept of refraction – quantitatively.
The study was conducted using a glass plate and air as the medium of light propagation. Both
media were interchanged to establish a consistent relationship with the said topic. It was
found out that that the value of the index of refraction is always greater than 1. The obtained
data shows that the greater the value of the index of refraction of certain medium, the denser
is the medium. This was verified by using the Snell’s Law, in which the experimental index
of refraction was determined accordingly. Moreover, it is also found out that when a light ray
travels in medium with considerable refractive index into much lesser refractive index a total
internal reflection occurs between the interfaces of media. The results of this experiment were
very promising in understanding the concept of refraction.

Key Words: light, refraction, index of refraction, critical angle, Snell’s Law

Introduction
A. Light has a dual nature Sometimes it behaves like a particle (called a photon),
which explains how light travels in straight lines Sometimes it behaves like a wave, which
explains how light bends around an object. If light would be considered as a wave, it entails
the principles of propagation and other properties of wave. These principles can be narrow
down in the concept of reflection and refraction. Reflection is the change in direction of a
wave front at an interface between two different media so that the wave front returns into the
medium from which it originated. On the other hand, refraction is the change in direction of a
wave passing from one medium to another caused by its change in speed. If a light ray travels
and it is propagated in a certain medium it will travel in a constant density. However, if light
travels in certain number of medium (media), at least of two medium, it is observed that light
travels in different speed depending on the very structure of the material or the medium. The
very reason of this refraction of light is that a change in speed of light takes place in the
interface between the media. As a result of study, different media have different quantitative
value of refraction. These quantitative values are often refereed as the index of refraction.

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To perform the experiment about the index of refraction the following materials are needed: glass plate. draw an extended line connecting points O and T to intersect the circle at H and another extended line connecting points O and K to intersect the circle at F. push pins. Next. Figure 1. Remove the glass plate and identify the hole from the pin on the paper. it will be divided into three parts. On the datasheet with the drawing of two perpendicular axes AA’ and BB’ intersecting at the center of circle O. 2 . Then. All data must be recorded. and either diode laser or a laser pointer. These two pins must be aligned and place the third pin anywhere in quadrant III in alignment with the pin 1 and pin 2. and (C) Determination of the critical angle for glass.Methodology In this fourth experiment. The materials used in the experiment The first part is about the determination of index of refraction of glass when light goes from glass to air. cork board. So this part will be done on the data sheet containing two perpendicular axes and the circle. (B) Determination of index of refraction of glass when light bends from air into glass. is to put a pin on the point O (origin) and pin 2 anywhere on the first quadrant and label it as point T.(A) Determination of index of refraction of glass when light goes from glass into air. after doing so. the glass plate’s lower edge must be placed along the line AA’. Next thing to do is to view the thickness of the lower edge of the glass plate and look for the images of pin 1 and pin 2. It is important that the two pins must touch the sides of the glass plate. trace the exact size of the glass plate. Then the angle must be determine using a protractor or can be calculated using the analysis of the right triangle formed by projecting the intersection of both extended line at the circle in the horizontal and vertical axis.

All places where the push pins are found out to be located must be traced from the center. Figure 3 Set-up for the second part of the experiment In the determination of the critical angle. one must view in the thickness of the glass plate in the third quadrant looking for the image of the second push pin. The only difference is that the glass is place below the horizontal axis. a laser must be placed to the lower side of the glass plate. Again. the position of both laser and the 3 . All data must be recorded. the first thing to do is to place and trace the glass plate in a clean sheet of bond paper. which is the last part of the experiment. Then. A light ray will be observed emerging in the upper side of the glass plate. the angle can be measured using a protractor or can be calculated as well.Figure 2 Set-up for the first part of the experiment The second part of the experiment is most likely the same with the first part of the experiment. The laser must be somehow perpendicular to the glass plate this can be done by adjusting the laser until the incident ray of light appears to be almost parallel to the lower side of the glass plate. thus the upper edge of the glass plate is actually touching the horizontal axis. It simply means that the procedure son in the first part is the same for the second part. Still.

Again any letter will do to assign these points. the position of the laser is set to be letter M and the point of the emerging light ray at the upper side of the glass plate was assigned to be letter E.emerging light ray must be marked. The following data and relationship established are provided below. All data must be recorded. In the case of our data. the diode laser is pointed out at the lower end of the glass plate Results and Discussion The conducted experiment about index of refraction is relatively easy. which is also solid in nature. It is important to note that all these angles are with respect to the vertical axis. A line must be trace from point M up to point E. The angle of this trace line must be measure with respect to the vertical axis. the glass plate which is placed in the upper part of the horizontal axis. We were able to determine the angle 4 . Determination of index of refraction of glass when light goes from glass into air If you would take a look in figure 5a. the angle with respect to vertical axis of the third push pin is expected to be more than the angle produce of the initially place push pin 2 due to the above explanation given. the theory was not violated since the angle of the third push pin is greater than the angle of the second push pin. also it can be calculate by using the tangent function. A. which is the push pin 2 was initially place. served as the basis for where the push pin 3 to be placed. again with respect to the vertical axis. See figure 4. In the case of our data. In the experiment. Solids are the best example of material which have a compact molecules. Theoretically. it is noticeable that the angle in the first quadrant in much lesser than the angle in the third quadrant. Figure 4 Set-up for the last part of the experiment. while gas are the best example of materials which a less compact or scattered molecules. The very explanation of this findings is that light bends lesser in much denser material provided that its molecules is more compact than a less denser material that its molecules are less compact.

much denser material. Since the glass plate was placed below the horizontal axis. and we are tasked to determine the angle of refraction in the third quadrant. the formula used in determining the experimental value of the index of refraction of the glass was derived from the equation of Snell’s law.by using a protractor for accuracy reason. the same principle is observed in the second part of the experiment. all findings and relationship established in the first and second part of the experiment is governed by the Snell’s law. Provided below is the Snell’s Law equation. (a) (b) Figure 5. much lesser than the initial angle produced of push pin 2 in the first quadrant. making the angle of refraction of push pin 2. See figure 5b. and is the index of refraction of air. specifically to locate where the image formed in the third quadrant by looking at the thickness of the glass. angle of incidence. where. (b) Actual data obtained in the second part of the experiment Generally. is the index of refraction of glass. As explained above. Also. but this angle was also calculated using the principle of right triangle. is the is the angle of refraction (All argument are in degrees) Table 1 Determination of index of refraction of glass PART A PART B Light bends from GLASS to AIR Light bends from AIR to GLASS Length of line GH 5 . Again push pin 2 was initially place in the first quadrant. higher angle. B. in which the push pin 3 was placed. less angle. less denser material. (a) Actual data obtained in the frist part of the experiment. Determination of index of refraction of glass when light bends from air into glass Basically. This theory is still observed in data obtained in the second part of the experiment.

like in the experiment the glass and air used as the medium. we are still able to gather reasonable data to emphasize the concept of critical angle. between the angle and the medium where the light bends. but the percentage of error obtained in this part of the experiment is reasonable due to the structure of the glass plate. It observed the glass plate is not perfect rectangle as a result it highly affects the data obtained. To 6 . first is that the light is in the more dense medium and going to less dense medium. This means there is no refracted ray but the ray of light is totally refracted. the third objective was accomplished by analysing our data obtained. We found out that the medium truly affect the angle of refraction. With some extended research. The first and second objective of this experiment was accomplished both in the process of performing the experiment and after the data obtained. there are two requirements in order for a total internal reflection can occurred. After the data was obtained we were able to compare the angle produce of the push pin. and second the angle of incidence must be greater than the critical angle. Moreover. We were able to establish a relationship that is provided in the results and discussion. Determination of the critical angle for glass In the table provided it is observed that the percentage of error is most likely close to ten percent. Table 2 Determination of critical angle Length of line MU Length of line EU Critical Angle (Experimental Value) Critical Angle (Accepted Value) Percentage Error Conclusion There are three objectives in this experiment: (1) to study the refraction of light. The very reason why the critical angle exists is because a total internal reflection occurs.Length of line FL Index of Refraction of Air Index of Refraction of Glass (Experimental Value) Index of Refraction of Glass (Accepted Value) Percentage Error C. and (3) to determine the index of refraction of glass experimentally by applying the Snell’s Law. In the process of performing the experiment we were able to study the refraction of light on how it behaves in different media. since the concept of critical angle is highly dependent on the angle how the laser is pointed into the glass plate. However. The concept of the critical angle is still governed by Snell’s law. (2) to compare the angle of incidence in the first medium to the angle of refraction in second medium.

com/class/refrn/Lesson-2/Snell-s-Law [2] http://hyperphysics. Cenage Learning.. it is advisable to some extended research to fully understand the concept of refraction.. Walker. D. Wiley. since Snell’s law is very consistent. In addition to the stated objective.. J.physicsclassroom. There is no major problem encountered in calculating the experimental index of refraction. A. 2011 Manual [1] Physics Laboratory Part 4 URL [1] http://www. 9th ed.. References Books [1] Serway. R. Resnick. This paper can only support the existing theories ad principle about the said topic. If innovations were introduced. Essentials of College Physics. R.phy-astr. 2007 [2] Halliday. Vuille. it is advisable to integrate it to the existing experiment in the purpose of further understanding. C. Furthermore.html 7 . Principles of Physics..determine the experimental index of refraction of the glass we use the Snell’s law.edu/hbase/tables/indrf. we also study the principle of the critical angle that is also can be explained mathematically by the Snell’s law.gsu.