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You are on page 1of 6

Newton's rings

Aims

To measure the wavelength of sodium light using the method of Newton's rings.

To gain familiarity with using a Vernier microscope.

Introduction

In this experiment the physical property of

interference of light will be used to determine

the wavelength, , of a light source. The

interference fringe system here is a pattern of

concentric circles, the diameter of which you

will measure with a travelling microscope

(which has a Vernier scale). If a clean convex

lens is placed on a clean glass slide (optically

flat) and viewed in monochromatic light, a

series of rings may be seen around the point

of contact between the lens and the slide.

These rings are known as Newton's rings and

they arise from the interference of light

reflected from the glass surfaces at the air

film between the lens and the slide. The

experimental set-up is shown in figure 1.

Microscope

Reflecting

slide, A

Light source

Lens, L

Centre

line, C

Glass

slide, B

Figure 1: Apparatus

**Part 1: Tutorial Question (10 mins)
**

The lens-makers equation for a thin lens is given as:

1

1

1

.

( n 1)

f

R1 R2

1.1

[1]

**Assuming that the refractive index of the lens is 1.5 and the focal length of the
**

lens is 100 cm, calculate the radius of curvature of each of the sides of a

biconvex lens.

**Part 2: Taking data to measure the wavelength of the sodium light (20 mins)
**

In this part of the experiment you will measure the diameter of six rings using the

Vernier scale on the travelling microscope, and then use this data to determine the

wavelength in Part 3.

Clean the lens and the glass slides with lens tissue and setup the apparatus as

shown in Figure 1.

The light from the sodium lamp is partially reflected downwards by a glass slide A .

The beams reflected from the lens, L , and the glass slide B go through the slide A

to the microscope.

1

Physics 1 – Newton’s Rings

**2.1 Explain why there will be an interference pattern produced and why there is a dark
**

spot at the centre?

Look for the interference rings with the naked eye – it is easiest to spot these from

a height and changing your viewing angle. You may need to manoeuvre the

reflecting slide until you can clearly view the rings.

Focus the microscope on the fringes and align the cross-hair tangential to the

central dark spot.

2.1.1

**Measure the diameters of at least six dark rings by setting the cross-hair on
**

one side of a series of rings, reading the positions and then moving the

microscope to the other side of the corresponding rings.

Hints:

You could start measuring the position of the 12 th ring, proceeding to the 10th, 8th,

etc. and then moving across to the other side of the central ring until you have

measured the 12th ring again.

Use the magnifying glass provided to read the Vernier scale precisely. To remind

yourself how to use the Vernier scale refer back to the Air Wedge experiment.

Part 3: Analysis (20 mins)

The radius rm , of the

m th

ring is given by

rm 2

m

R

[2]

**where R is the radius of curvature of the lens.
**

(The derivation of this equation is provided, for interest, in the appendix.)

3.1 Draw a graph of rm 2 against the ring number (a.k.a. order number of the fringe)

m.

3.2

Find an expression for the gradient of this graph.

3.3

**Hence calculate the value of , using the value of R stated and the gradient of
**

the graph.

3.4

Compare your result with the accepted value for sodium light of 589nm.

**Part 4: Deriving equation for destructive interference (Optional)
**

4.1

**Work through the derivation shown in the appendix to ensure you can also
**

deduce equation 2.

Further work

2

Physics 1 – Newton’s Rings

**The following questions are related to the topic covered by this experimental tutorial.
**

L65 and L66

3

**Physics 1 – Newton’s Rings
**

Appendix

Let R be the radius of curvature of the lower surface of the lens. Let rm be the

radius of the m th dark ring, to be measured with the microscope.

Let the corresponding thickness of the air gap at

the point P be t . (See figure 5.)

The path difference between the beams reflected

at Q and P is approximately 2t (for vertical

viewing, at small radius r ).

Q

t

C

P

rm

Figure 5: Measuring thickness, t.

**From geometry (refer to figure 6),
**

rm 2 t 2 R t

[3]

**If t is small, we can neglect terms the size of t 2 . This gives,
**

r 2

t m

2R

[4]

Hence the path difference is

2R-t

2

2t

rm

R

[5]

rm

rm

t

**Now the phase of the wave reflected at P is changed by
**

Figure 6: Determining rm.

180 on reflection. If there is also a path difference of

m due to the air gap, the two beams will enter the

microscope 180 out of phase and hence cancel (destructive interference). This is

the condition that will hold at a dark ring. Therefore,

rm 2

m

R

**Note that the condition for constructive interference – bright fringe – gives
**

rm 2

2m 1

R

2

4

[6]

**Physics 1 – Newton’s Rings
**

Demonstrators' Answers, Hints, Marking Scheme and Equipment List

Marking Scheme

Section

1.1

2.1

2.2

3.1

3.2

3.3

3.4

Discretionary mark

TOTAL

Mark

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

2

10

Answers

1.1

100 cm, R1=-R2 for a bi-convex lens, where –ve sign indicates opposite

curvature.

2.1

**There is an interference pattern produced because of a path difference between
**

coherent light. The light beam reflected from the glass plate will experience a

phase shift of radians (180 degrees) but the one reflected from the inner lens

surfaces won’t. The path length due to the thin wedge causes an additional

difference in phase, meaning that there will be destructive interference at a

path difference of integer number of wavelengths. This also explains why

there is a dark spot in the centre of the rings produced.

2

3.2 The gradient of the graph is

rm

R .

m

**3.3 The wavelength obtained should be close to 589nm.
**

Fringe

Order

m

Reading

1(m)

Reading

2 (m)

Diameter

D (m)

Radius

R (m)

Radius2 R2

(m)

0

2

4

6

8

10

12

14

0.03435

0.03399

0.03371

0.03351

0.03334

0.0332

0.03307

0.03295

0.03469

0.03515

0.0354

0.03557

0.03571

0.03589

0.036

0.0361

0.00034

0.00116

0.00169

0.00206

0.00237

0.00269

0.00293

0.00315

0.00017

0.00058

0.00085

0.00103

0.00119

0.00135

0.00147

0.00158

2.89E-08

3.364E-07

7.14E-07

1.061E-06

1.404E-06

1.809E-06

2.146E-06

2.481E-06

5

Radius of

curvature

of convex

lens (m)

0.3

Waveleng

th (m)

5.92E-07

Physics 1 – Newton’s Rings

Equipment List

Travelling microscope with magnifying arm detached.

Magnifying torch

Biconvex lens of known focal length – e.g. 100cm. Must be specified to student.

Glass slide

Sodium light

Optical track

2 x saddles with lens and mirror holders

Mirror

Lamp on stand

Screen with triangular hole

6

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