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Light Light is electromagnetic radiation that has properties of waves. The electromagnetic spectrum can be divided into several bands based on the wavelength of the light waves. As we have discussed before, visible light represents a narrow group of wavelengths between about 380 nm (1 nm = 10-9 m) and 730 nm.
Our eyes interpret these wavelengths as different colors. If only a single wavelength or limited range of wavelengths are present and enter our eyes, they are interpreted as a certain color.
If a single wavelength is present we say that we have monochromatic light. If all wavelengths of visible light are present, our eyes interpret this as white light. If no wavelengths in the visible range are present, we interpret this as dark. Interaction of Light with Matter Velocity of Light and Refractive Index We here define refractive index, n, of a material or substance as the ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum, C, to the speed of light in a material through which it passes, Cm. n = C/Cm Note that the value of refractive index will always be greater than 1.0, since Cm can never be greater than C. In general, Cm depends on the density of the material, with Cm decreasing with increasing density. Thus, higher density materials will have higher refractive indices. The refractive index of any material depends on the wavelength of light because different wavelengths are interfered with to different extents by the atoms that make up the material. In general refractive index varies linearly with wavelength. Materials can be divided into 2 classes based on how the velocity of light of a particular wavelength varies in the material. 1. Materials whose refractive index not depend on the direction that the light travels are called isotropic
most liquids and amorphous solids are isotropic. In these materials the velocity of light does not depend on the direction that the light travels. Reflection and Refraction of Light . glass. The refractive index of air is usually taken as 1.0. a. although its true value is 1. since it is a gas. although the reasoning behind these subdivisions will become clear in a later lecture. These types of materials will have a range of refractive indices between two extreme values for each wavelength. b. Minerals that crystallize in the tetragonal and hexagonal crystal systems (as well as some plastics) are uniaxial and are characterized by 2 extreme refractive indices for each wavelength.0003. gases. constant refractive index for each wavelength. Minerals that crystallize in the isometric system. Minerals that crystallize in the triclinic. and orthorhombic crystal systems are biaxial and are characterized by 3 refractive indices. Materials whose refractive index does depend on the direction that the light travels are called anisotropic materials. Similarly. Anisotropic materials can be further divided into two subclasses. Air. Isotropic materials have a single. one of which is intermediate between the other two. are isotropic. monoclinic. 2. is isotropic. by virtue of their symmetry.materials.
and the refracted ray will continue along the same path.When light strikes an interface between two substances with different refractive indices. If the second substance is transparent to light.e. measured between a line perpendicular to the interface and the propagation direction of the incident ray. and resulting in r = 0. or bent. at an angle r. An incident ray of light striking the interface at an angle. making sin (r) = 0. called the critical angle for total internal reflection where the refracted ray travels along the . This can be seen from Snell's law. ic. There is also an angle. The angle of refraction is dependent on the angle of incidence and the refractive index of the materials on either side of the interface according to Snell's Law: ni sin (i) = nr sin (r) Note that if the angle of incidence is 0o (i. i. two things occur. In other words the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence. i. the light enters perpendicular to the interface) that some of the light will be reflected directly back. the angle of refraction. then a ray of light will enter the substance with different refractive index. will be reflected off the interface at the same angle. and will be refracted. since sin(0o) = 0.
This results in the a greater angle of refraction for the longer wavelengths than for the shorter wavelengths. This can be seen by shining a beam of white light into a triangular prism made of glass. This occurs when the angle r = 90o. White light entering such a prism will be refracted in the prism by different angles depending on the wavelength of the light. we see the different wavelengths dispersed to show the different . In this case. angle r300 ). angle r800 and for a wavelength of 300 nm. When the light exits from the other side of the prism. The refractive index for longer wavelengths (red) are lower than those for shorter wavelengths (violet). (Shown here are the paths taken for a wavelength of 800 nm.interface between the two substances. applying Snell's law: ni sin (ic) = nr sin (90o) = nr [since sin (90o) = 1] sin (ic) = nr/ni Dispersion of Light The fact that refractive indices differ for each wavelength of light produces an effect called dispersion.
and it thus looses some of its intensity. called the absorption color. An opaque . they light that gets transmitted through the material will show only those wavelengths of light that are not absorbed. I. called the absorption color of the material.colors of the spectrum. for each wavelength before it is transmitted through a material. Io. When this absorption of energy occurs selectively for different wavelengths of light. and measure the intensity. The transmitted wavelengths will then be seen as color. Absorption of Light When light enters a transparent material some of its energy is dissipated as heat energy. if we measure the intensity of light. For example. The absorption curve (continuous line) for the material in this example shows that the light exiting the material will have a yellow-green color. for each wavelength after it has passed through the material. and plot I/Io versus wavelength we obtain the absorption curve for that material as shown here.
If the light is constrained to vibrate in only on plane. y The first involves reflection off of a non-metallic surface. There are two common ways that light can become polarized. however. i. since all wavelengths are present.substance would have an absorption curve such as that labeled "Dark". The direction that the light vibrates is called the vibration direction. vibrating in all directions perpendicular to its path strikes such a surface and is reflected. thus we see it as white light. Polarization of Light Normal light vibrates equally in all direction perpendicular to its path of propagation. If some of this light also enters the material and is . Sunlight. such as glass or paint. on passing through the atmosphere has absorption curve as shown.e. no wavelengths would be transmitted. we say that it is plane polarized light. The reflected beam will be polarized with vibration directions parallel to the reflecting surface (perpendicular to the page as indicated by the open circles on the ray path). An unpolarized beam of light. which for now will be perpendicular to the direction.
but in the plane perpendicular to the direction of vibration in the reflected ray (the plane of the paper. and we will discuss these properties when we discuss uniaxial and biaxial crystals. as shown in the drawing).refracted at an angle 90o to the path of the reflected ray. Such a device is also called a polarizer. called privileged directions. A Polaroid consists of long-chain organic molecules that are aligned in one direction an placed in a plastic sheet. Light vibrating in all other directions is absorbed. The device used to make polarized light in modern microscopes is a Polaroid. with vibration directions again perpendicular to the path of the refracted ray. it too will become partially polarized. . a trade name for a plastic film made by the Polaroid Corporation. y Polarization can also be achieved by passing the light through a substance that absorbs light vibrating in all directions except one. Anisotropic crystals have this property in certain directions. that allows the passage of light vibrating only in the same direction as the grid. They are placed close enough to form a closely spaced linear grid. Crystals were used to produce polarized light in microscopes built before about 1950.
. incoming solar radiation is reflected off of the surface of the ocean or the painted hood of your car. The light coming out on the other side will then be plane polarized. In this case we say that the light has been extinguished. only light vibrating parallel to the polarizing direction of the polarizer will be allowed to pass. If another polarizer with its polarization direction oriented perpendicular to the first polarizer is placed in front of the beam of now polarized light. Polaroid sunglasses use these same principles. Polaroid sunglasses contain polarizers with the polarization direction oriented vertically. For example. Reflected light coming off of either of these surfaces will be polarized such that the vibration directions are parallel to the reflected surface. Wearing such glasses will cut out all of the horizontally polarized light reflecting off the water surface or hood of your car.If a beam on non-polarized light encounters a polarizer. and will be vibrating parallel to the polarizing direction of the polarizer. then no light will penetrate the second polarizer. or approximately horizontal (as in the first method of polarization discussed above).
where it becomes polarized such that the light is vibrating from the users right to left. Light from a light source located below the tube and stage of the microscope is initially unpolarized. These directions are referred to as East (right and West (left). Such a microscope is equipped with two polarizers that are normally oriented so that their polarization directions are perpendicular to one another. This light first passes through the lower polarizer (usually just called the polarizer). Mounted within the microscope tube is a second polarizer. called the objective lens. The light then passes through a hole in the rotatable stage of the microscope and enters the lower lens. called .The Polarizing Microscope In optical mineralogy we use a microscope called a polarizing microscope.
then the plane polarized light coming from the lower polarizer will be blocked. If the analyzer is out. that can be rotated or pushed so that in can be in the light path (inserted position) or not in the light path (analyzer out position). . then the polarized light will be transmitted through the ocular lens. If the analyzer is in. and no light will be transmitted though the ocular lens above. The analyzer has a polarization direction exactly perpendicular to that of the lower polarizer These directions are usually referred to as North South. so that it is not in the light path.the analyzer. Next time we will see how this microscope is used to examine isotropic substances and determine their refractive indices.
these lightwaves are considered incoherent. they jump to a higher energy level. the electrons reemit the light. when the light is reemitted by scattering. However. Otherwise. When they fall back to their original energy level. [ Two coherent waves ] Light produced by lasers are coherent light. This will result in a light wave of lower frequency and wavelength as described by Compton's shift formula: . Light from light bulbs or the sun. two waves are coherent if the crests of one wave are aligned with the crests of the other and the troughs of one wave are aligned with the troughs of the other. When electrons are excited by light waves. however. Scattering Excited electrons emit light waves. the opposite is true: light waves can excite electrons. some is lost to the particle. This process is called scattering. not all of the energy is given back to the light wave. and just so happens. but instead.Coherent light Coherent light are light waves that are "in phase" with one another. For example. are incoherent light.
When light is scattered on an object smaller than the wavelength of light. At sunset. This happens when the two waves are in phase -. one with a crest of +1 units and coinciding with a wave of +2 units in amplitude at that point. the particles in the atmosphere will scatter the sunlight and lower its frequency to somewhere in the blue range. Interference Interference is the interaction between waves traveling in the same medium. Consider two waves. such as blue. traveling in . all of the light waves have been scattered so much that it lowers the frequency to the other end of our visible range: red. In constructive interference. are able to pass though a network of air particles better than higher frequency light waves. the amplitude of the wave is amplified.if the crests and troughs of the waves coincide with each other. depending on the phase differences along the waves. Because of that. such as red. Because of the nature of Rayleigh scattering -. the process is called Rayleigh scattering. During the day. light is scattered the least by very small particles. When two waves come into contact. The color of the sky is the direct result of Rayleigh scattering of the sunlight.light waves scattered by objects smaller than its wavelength -. shorter wavelength. constructive and destructive interferences will occur. Lower frequency light waves.it is very frequency dependent. Higher frequency. the light waves from the sun have to travel a greater distance to reach us. light are scattered the most while lower frequency. longer wavelength.
the resulting amplitude will be the difference of the two waves.when the crests of one wave coincide with the troughs of the other. The bug is periodically shaking its legs in order to produce disturbances that travel through the water. Once the waves pass each other. When these troughs come into contact. The pattern produced by the bug's shaking would be a series of concentric circles as shown in the diagram at the right. Consider two waves. one with a crest of +1 coinciding with a wave of -2 units in amplitude at that point. These circles would reach the edges of the water puddle at the same frequency.opposite directions on the same medium. This happens when the waves are out of phase -. Destructive interference is very much like constructive interference except that the two waves cancels out each other. At the point of contact.as if they have not been disturbed at all. they will resume their original course with their original amplitude -. Since each disturbance is traveling in the same medium. Just like constructive interference. then they would travel outward from that point in all directions. An observer at point A (the left . which is +3 in this case. the resulting amplitude will be the sum of the two waves. The Doppler Effect Suppose that there is a happy bug in the center of a circular water puddle. which is -1 in this case. traveling in opposite directions on the same medium. they would all travel in every direction at the same speed. they will resume their original course with their original amplitude -. once the waves pass each other. If these disturbances originate at a point. however.as if they have not been disturbed at all.
. The net effect of the motion of the bug (the source of waves) is that the observer towards whom the bug is moving observes a frequency which is higher than 2 disturbances/second.edge of the puddle) would observe the disturbances to strike the puddle's edge at the same frequency that would be observed by an observer at point B (at the right edge of the puddle). each consecutive disturbance originates from a position which is closer to observer B and farther from observer A. Since the bug is moving towards the right. For this reason. In fact. then each observer would observe them approaching at a frequency of 2 per second. observer A observes a frequency of arrival which is less than the frequency at which the disturbances are produced. Subsequently. If the bug produces disturbances at a frequency of 2 per second. On the other hand. Now suppose that our bug is moving to the right across the puddle of water and producing disturbances at the same frequency of 2 disturbances per second. each consecutive disturbance has a shorter distance to travel before reaching observer B and thus takes less time to reach observer B. Thus. each consecutive disturbance has a further distance to travel before reaching observer A. and the observer away from whom the bug is moving observes a frequency which is less than 2 disturbances/second. the frequency at which disturbances reach the edge of the puddle would be the same as the frequency at which the bug produces the disturbances. observer B observes that the frequency of arrival of the disturbances is higher than the frequency at which disturbances are produced. This effect is known as the Doppler effect.
Using the example above. We are most familiar with the Doppler effect because of our experiences with sound waves. The Doppler effect can be observed for any type of wave . and then suddenly after the car passed by.water wave. Perhaps you recall an instance in which a police car or emergency vehicle was traveling towards you on the highway. the pitch of the siren sound was low. . etc. it just appears to the observer whom the bug is approaching that the disturbances are being produced at a frequency greater than 2 disturbances/second. light wave. It is important to note that the effect does not result because of an actual change in the frequency of the source. The Doppler effect can be described as the effect produced by a moving source of waves in which there is an apparent upward shift in frequency for observers towards whom the source is approaching and an apparent downward shift in frequency for observers from whom the source is receding. sound wave. the bug is still producing disturbances at a rate of 2 disturbances per second.an apparent shift in frequency for a sound wave produced by a moving source. As the car approached with its siren blasting. The effect is only observed because the distance between observer B and the bug is decreasing and the distance between observer A and the bug is increasing. the pitch of the siren sound (a measure of the siren's frequency) was high.The Doppler effect is observed whenever the source of waves is moving with respect to an observer. That was the Doppler effect .
The nature of such electromagnetic . specific information about stars within galaxies can be determined by application of the Doppler effect. Light waves are produced by vibrating electric charges. there is an upward shift in frequency (a blue shift) of such observed radiation if the star is rotating in a direction that is towards the Earth. Polarization A light wave is an electromagnetic wave which travels through the vacuum of outer space. Galaxies are clusters of stars which typically rotate about some center of mass point. Electromagnetic radiation emitted by such stars in a distant galaxy would appear to be shifted downward in frequency (a red shift) if the star is rotating in its cluster in a direction which is away from the Earth. The belief that the universe is expanding is based in part upon observations of electromagnetic waves emitted by stars in distant galaxies.The Doppler effect is of intense interest to astronomers who use the information about the shift in frequency of electromagnetic waves produced by moving stars in our galaxy and beyond in order to derive information about those stars and galaxies. Furthermore. On the other hand.
thus creating an electromagnetic wave which . yet these vibrations would occur in a single plane of space. or by a candle flame is unpolarized light. Yet regardless of their direction of vibration. Unlike a usual slinky wave. then the vibrations of the slinky would occur in multiple planes. it is sufficient to merely say that an electromagnetic wave is a transverse wave which has both an electric and a magnetic component. Such light waves are created by electric charges which vibrate in a variety of directions.waves is beyond the scope of The Physics Classroom Tutorial. A light wave which is vibrating in more than one plane is referred to as unpolarized light. This is quite different than what you might notice if you were to look along a slinky and observe a slinky wave traveling towards you. The transverse nature of an electromagnetic wave is quite different from any other type of wave which has been discussed in The Physics Classroom Tutorial. the coils of the slinky would be vibrating back and forth as the slinky approached. by a lamp in the classroom. As an electromagnetic wave traveled towards you. Indeed. If a slinky wave were an electromagnetic wave. Let's suppose that we use the customary slinky to model the behavior of an electromagnetic wave. That is. the electric and magnetic vibrations of an electromagnetic wave occur in numerous planes. Light emitted by the sun. the coils of the slinky might vibrate up and down or left and right. they would be moving along the same linear direction as you sighted along the slinky. then you would observe the vibrations of the slinky occurring in more than one plane of vibration. For our purposes.
a Polaroid serves as a device which filters out one-half of the vibrations upon transmission of the light through the filter. (Remember. It is possible to transform unpolarized light into polarized light. the notion of two planes or directions of vibration is merely a simplification which helps us to visualize the wavelike nature of the electromagnetic wave. In general. Polaroid filters are made of a special material which is capable of blocking one of the two planes of vibration of an electromagnetic wave. Polarized light waves are light waves in which the vibrations occur in a single plane.vibrates in a variety of directions. This concept of unpolarized light is rather difficult to visualize. When unpolarized light is transmitted through .) In this sense. it is helpful to picture unpolarized light as a wave which has an average of half its vibrations in a horizontal plane and half of its vibrations in a vertical plane. The four methods discussed on this page are : y y y y Polarization by Transmission Polarization by Reflection Polarization by Refraction Polarization by Scattering Polarization by Use of a Polaroid Filter The most common method of polarization involves the use of a Polaroid filter. There are a variety of methods of polarizing light. The process of transforming unpolarized light into polarized light is known as polarization.
On the . This polarization axis extends across the length of the filter and only allows vibrations of the electromagnetic wave that are parallel to the axis to pass through. Any vibrations which are perpendicular to the polarization axis are blocked by the filter. Such a filter will block all horizontal vibrations and allow the vertical vibrations to be transmitted (see diagram above). The filter can be thought of as having long-chain molecules that are aligned within the filter in the same direction. a Polaroid filter with its long-chain molecules aligned horizontally will have a polarization axis aligned vertically. During the fabrication of the filter. The alignment of these molecules gives the filter a polarization axis. it emerges as polarized light. The general rule is that the electromagnetic vibrations which are in a direction parallel to the alignment of the molecules are absorbed. As unpolarized light strikes the filter. it emerges with one-half the intensity and with vibrations in a single plane. the portion of the waves vibrating in the vertical direction are absorbed by the filter. A Polaroid filter is able to polarize light because of the chemical composition of the filter material. Thus. the longchain molecules are stretched across the filter so that each molecule is (as much as possible) aligned in say the vertical direction.a Polaroid filter.
These vertical vibrations were then blocked by the second filter since its polarization filter is aligned in a horizontal direction. perhaps only vertical vibrations were able to pass through. So by use of two filters. this filter will block all vertical vibrations and allow the horizontal vibrations to be transmitted. The filter does not distort the shape or dimensions of the object. A pair of filters are often placed back to back in order to view objects looking through two filters. it merely serves to produce a dimmer image of the object since one-half of the light is blocked as it passed through the filter. one can completely block all of the light which is . By slowly rotating the second filter. you will know when the axes are aligned perpendicular to each other because with this orientation.other hand. a Polaroid filter with its long-chain molecules aligned vertically will have a polarization axis aligned horizontally. Polarization of light by use of a Polaroid filter was is often demonstrated in a Physics class through a variety of demonstrations. What happened? In this demonstration. While you are unable to see the axes on the filter. the light was polarized upon passage through the first filter. Filters are used to look through an view objects. all light is blocked. an orientation can be found in which all the light from an object is blocked and the object can no longer be seen when viewed through two filters.
On the other hand. then the vertical vibrations which pass through the first fence will be blocked by the second fence. A picket fence can act as a polarizer by transforming an unpolarized wave in a rope into a wave which vibrates in a single plane. . Obviously. a vertical vibration would not have the room to make it through a horizontal spacing. A picket-fence analogy is often used to explain how this dualfilter demonstration works. then vertical vibrations will pass through both fences. this will only occur if the polarization axes are rotated such that they are perpendicular to each other. If two picket fences are oriented such that the pickets are both aligned vertically. The spaces between the pickets of the fence will allow vibrations which are parallel to the spacings to pass through while blocking any vibrations which are perpendicular to the spacings. This is depicted in the diagram below. if the pickets of the second fence are aligned horizontally.incident upon the set.
two Polaroid filters oriented with their polarization axes perpendicular to each other will block all the light. The extent to which polarization occurs is dependent upon the angle at which the light approaches the surface and upon the material which the surface is made of. nonmetallic surfaces such as asphalt roadways. Polarization by Reflection Unpolarized light can also undergo polarization by reflection off of nonmetallic surfaces.In the same manner. Metallic surfaces reflect light with a variety of vibrational directions. such reflected light is unpolarized. However. Now that's a pretty cool observation which could never be explained by a particle view of light. snow fields and water reflect light such that there is a large concentration of vibrations in a plane parallel to the reflecting surface. A person .
Most often. the path of the beam changes its direction. Fisherman are familiar with this glare since it prevents them from seeing fish which lie below the water.viewing objects by means of light reflected off of nonmetallic surfaces will often perceive a glare if the extent of polarization is large. Light reflected off a lake is partially polarized in a direction parallel to the water's surface. Polarization by Refraction Polarization can also occur by the refraction of light. At the surface of the two materials. The refracted beam acquires some degree of polarization. Refraction occurs when a beam of light passes from one material into another material. Fisherman know that the use of glare-reducing sunglasses with the proper polarization axis allows for the blocking of this partially polarized light. the polarization occurs in a plane . By blocking the planepolarized light. the glare is reduced and the fisherman can more easily see fish located under the water.
the second image reappears and the first image disappears. The two images are the result of the double refraction of light. the light is completely blocked by the filter.one in a direction parallel to the surface and the other in a direction perpendicular to the surface. And if the filter is then turned 90-degrees in either direction. Now that's pretty neat observation that could never be observed if light did not exhibit any wavelike behavior. Both refracted light beams are polarized . Subsequently. if an object is viewed by looking through an Iceland Spar crystal. Polarization by Scattering Polarization also occurs when light is scattered while traveling through a medium. Iceland Spar. meanwhile the second image is as bright as can be. The polarization of refracted light is often demonstrated in a Physics class using a unique crystal which serves as a double-refracting crystal. a rather rare form of the mineral calcite. a polarizing filter can be used to completely block one of the images. If the polarization axis of the filter is aligned perpendicular to the plane of polarized light.perpendicular to the surface. Since these two refracted rays are polarized with a perpendicular orientation. it will often set the electrons of those atoms into vibration. This newly generated . When light strikes the atoms of a material. two images will be seen. refracts incident light into two different paths. The light is split into two beams upon entering the crystal. The vibrating electrons then produce their own electromagnetic wave which is radiated outward in all directions.
Polaroid filters are used to perform stress analysis tests on transparent plastics. This absorption and reemission of light waves causes the light to be scattered about the medium. the color pattern changes as new colors become blocked and the formerly blocked colors are transmitted. The problem can easily be corrected by the use of a Polaroid filter. The scattered light often produces a glare in the skies. The photographic secret of capturing a vivid blue sky as the backdrop of a beautiful foreground lies in the physics of polarization and Polaroid filters.wave strikes neighboring atoms. As the filter is rotated. Polarization by scattering is observed as light passes through our atmosphere. In industry. a topic to be discussed later. each color of visible light is polarized with its own orientation. (This process of scattering contributes to the blueness of our skies. a colorful pattern is revealed. forcing their electrons into vibrations at the same original frequency. Applications of Polarization Polarization has a wealth of other applications besides their use in glare-reducing sunglasses. These vibrating electrons produce another electromagnetic wave which is once more radiated outward in all directions. As light passes through a plastic. If such a plastic is placed between two polarizing plates. the partially polarized light is blocked and the glare is reduced. A common Physics demonstration involves placing a plastic protractor between two Polaroid plates and placing . As the top plate is turned. Photographers know that this partial polarization of scattered light leads to photographs characterized by a washed-out sky.) This scattered light is partially polarized.
them on top of an overhead projector. It is known that structural stress in plastic is signified at locations where there is a large concentration of colored bands. This location of stress is usually the location where structural failure will most likely occur. The audience then wears glasses which have two Polaroid filters. Each movie is cast by light which is polarized with an orientation perpendicular to the other movie. Perhaps you wish that a more careful stress analysis was performed on the plastic case of the CD which you recently purchased. Three-dimensional movies are actually two movies being shown at the same time through two projectors. This gives the viewer a perception of depth. Each filter has a different polarization axis . The two movies are filmed from two slightly different camera locations. there are two slightly different movies being projected onto a screen. The movies are projected through a polarizing filter. The polarizing filter used for the projector on the left may have its polarization axis aligned horizontally while the polarizing filter used for the projector on the right would have its polarization axis aligned vertically.one is horizontal and the other is vertical. Polarization is also used in the entertainment industry to produce and show 3-D movies. Each individual movie is then projected from different sides of the audience onto a metal screen. . Consequently. The result of this arrangement of projectors and filters is that the left eye sees the movie which is projected from the right projector while the right eye sees the movie which is projected from the left projector.
.Our model of the polarization of light provides some substantial support for the wavelike nature of light. polarization is one more reason why scientists believe that light exhibits wavelike behavior. For this reason. It would be extremely difficult to explain polarization phenomenon using a particle view of light. Polarization would only occur with a transverse wave.
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