# MEASURE REFRACTIVE INDEX OF A LIQUID WITH A LASER POINTER.

OBJECTIVE:
The objective of this experiment is to see if sugar concentrations in water can be determined using the index of refraction of the solution.

INTRODUCTION: No doubt you have noticed the odd "bending" effect that you see when you put a straw (or pencil) in a glass of water. so the straw appears to bend at an angle when you look at the interface between the air and the water. Compare . The water refracts the light.

Air and water each have a different index of refraction (symbolized by the variable n). m b s a y a u g n g e d a s g w n t l a a t a i r - Snell's Law describes the physics of refraction (see Figure 2. . W c o n t a i n s p w h i c h g l a s w a t e r ? T h l s r h i a e e c i c f s h n o r e a c t t w i o o s e n s r s n i . If we follow a light ray (red) as it passes from air to water.the two images in Figure 1 and see if you notice anything different between them. below). F i g u r e 1 . i l l u s t r a t e l i q u i d s . Snell's Law describes the angle of refraction of a light ray in terms of the angle of incidence and the index of refraction of each of the materials through which the light is passing (air and water in this case). we can see how the light bends.

In Figure 1. Figure 3 shows a diagram of the setup. the normal (dashed gray line in Figure 2). angles are measured from a line perpendicular to the surface with which the light is interacting. we'll show you how to use the physics of refraction to measure the sugar content of a clear liquid solution (e. θ2. What Snell's Law tells us is that the greater the relative index of refraction. Can you tell which is which? In this project. Since sugar water is more dense than plain water. θ1. are shown in Figure 2. sugar water should have a higher index of refraction than plain water. or simply. The index of refraction of a liquid depends on the density of the liquid. This line is called the surface normal. apple juice.g. .. Dissolving sugar in water results in a solution with density greater than that of water alone. and the angle of refraction. The angle of incidence. the more the light bends. Snell's Law says that the relative index of refraction of the two materials (RI = n2/n1) is equal to the the sine of the angle of incidence (sine θ1) divided by the sine of the angle of refraction (sine θ2). You'll use a laser pointer and a hollow glass prism (which we'll show you how to make). one glass has plain water and the other glass has sugar water. L a I w l l u s t r a t i o n o f In optics. or a clear soda drink).F S i n g e u l r l e ' s 2 .

the laser light will be refracted (solid blue and red lines). From this angle. and use them to calculate the angle of minimum deviation. The angle of deviation will be at a minimum when the light passing through the prism (solid blue line) is parallel to the base of the prism. which you will measure (we'll .F f r a t i o e r g u r e 3 . Then you'll measure two distances. the laser light (dotted red line) will shine straight through to a wall (solid black line). When the prism is filled with liquid. D i a g r r m e a s u r i n g t f r a c t i o n o f a l a s e r p o i n t e r i a n g u l a r p r i s m a h l i q u a n d m e o i f n i d a d s e e t u p x o f u s i n g h o l l o w When there is no liquid in the prism. but it's actually not so bad. You'll have to rotate the prism just right so that this is true. θmd is the angle of minimum deviation. you can calculate the index of refraction. Equation 1 is the formula for doing this. x and L. Equation 1 looks complicated at first.

00056.5. the apex angle is 60°. Finally. and multiply by 2. and you'll have the desired index of refraction. we've substituted the numerical value of the index of refraction of air (nair = 1. . The sine of 30° is 0. θp is the apex angle of the prism.show you how in the Experimental Procedure section). add 60°. In equation 3. In equation 2. Since the prism is an equilateral triangle. and multiply the result by one-half. so we've made that substitution in equation 3. we've substituted 60° for θp. we simplify the numerical terms to produce Equation 4.00028). Plug in your measured value for θmd. which is the one you will use. Then take the sine of the result.

. pencil. electrical tape. piece of string. arctangent). tape. diamond scribe or glass cutter. laser pointer.MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENTS: To do this experiment we need the following materials and equipment: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • several 1" × 3" glass microscope slides. graduated cylinder. gram scale. water. paper. sugar. epoxy glue (either 5-minute or 30-minute epoxy). cardboard. toothpicks. ruler. calculator with trigonometric functions (sine. tape measure.

6. The goal is an equilateral prism that can hold liquid.) 5. Bend just enough to break the glass. 3. below. Figure 3. Now you will break the glass along the scribe lines. The prism will hold a liquid as you measure the liquid's index of refraction. r n t m f h a r s e k o t e i m n p g s 2. It will be constructed from microscope slides and epoxy. Now bend the glass away from the tape. . (If desired. Place the prism on a flat surface to align the bottom edges. Repeat for the second scribe line (Figure 4b). allowing the tape to stretch (Figure 4c). Continue bending until the triangle closes. Use a straightedge to guide the diamond scribe. Use the overhanging tape to secure the prism in this configuration (Figure 4d). before scribing you can mark the positions for the scribe lines with marker. 4. The two scribe lines should be one inch apart and perpendicular to the long edge of the slide. The tape should hang over the edge. The marker can later be cleaned off with a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a paper towel. F s e a ( e m i a r i q h q c e g u o u r u e l i o e e 4 . Score the other side of the microscope slide with a diamond scribe or glass cutter as shown (Figure 4a). Hold the slide on either side of the first scribe line and bend the glass toward the taped side. 1999). 7. Put a piece of black electrical tape across the face of the slide as shown above (Figure 4a).PROCEDURE: MAKING THE PRISM FROM MICROSCOPIC SLIDES: 1. T h e x p l a i n e d b e l o w . shows the sequence of steps you will be following to make a hollow glass prism in the shape of an equilateral triangle (from Edmiston. D i a g r a m o f c e o f s t e p s f o r l o w g l a s s p r i s m l a t e r a l t r i a n g l e ) s c o p e s l i d e s .

i n g 2 ) . a t a o o a 5 s i w . the inside edges should be in contact along their entire vertical length. Figure 5. Adjust the edges of each face so that they align correctly. When the epoxy in the corners has set firmly. n g r o . Glue the prism to a second microscope slide as shown (Figure 4f). but keep the epoxy in the corners and away from the faces of the prism. below. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for mixing the epoxy cement (usually you mix equal amounts from each of two tubes). and then your prism will be ready for use.) F f r u a ( t 2 i o e s n h 0 g r f i h o e 0 u r n o t r m a g l d e e c l t i . is a diagram of the setup you will use for measuring the index of refraction of a liquid. 9. 11. mix up fresh epoxy and use a toothpick to apply it to the bottom edge of the prism. Allow the epoxy to set overnight. u o l s n a t c a r r D i s r a m i n o e i l a g f r a e i g r t a p a h l o u b N m e i i l a i n a s e q o i u t r e r f n i r p d e r e d d s e e x a t u o p f n s d m n . but keep the epoxy away from the faces of the prism. The corners need to be watertight.8. 10. The bottom edge needs to be water-tight. (Note that the diagram is not to scale. At each apex of the prism. MEASURING THE REFRACTIVE INDEX: 1. Use a toothpick to apply epoxy to the inside corners of the prism to glue the three faces together (Figure 4e). Keep the bottom surface flat and allow the epoxy to set.

On the wall. You should attach a big piece of paper to the wall for marking and measuring where the beam hits. Mark the spot where the beam hits the wall when the prism is empty. θmd. centered underneath the prism. 6 f . The laser pointer should be set up so that its beam (dotted red line in Figure 5) is perpendicular to a nearby wall. When the prism is filled with liquid. F s a ( t 2 i h n n h 0 g o g o e 0 u w l t r i e e n t o a g o i . on the sheet of paper mark the point where the beam enters the prism (point d in Figure 6). 3. Figure 6. the laser beam will be refracted within the prism (solid blue line). When the prism is empty (filled only with air). The height of the laser pointer should be adjusted so that it hits about half-way up the side of the prism. You will measure the distance. x. The next several steps describe how to mark point c. because they are project on the wall. The laser pointer should be fixed in place. Later you will draw a line between d and e to show the path of the undiverted beam. You need to mark points a. and c in order to measure the angle. b. this point . h s c a o m r D w i a m e n l t t i e i a o m . a e a n t m t i h o e n d 2 ) g 5. then placing it in the path should not divert the beam. below. n i u l m m b N a i d e s e d i a e r a s e d e g u v r i r r o . 6. The emerging beam (solid red line) will hit the wall some distance away from the original spot of the undiverted beam. Marking point c is more difficult. between these two points (see Figure 5). because it is under the prism. 4. 7. Points a and b are easy. Then mark the point where the beam exits the prism (point e in Figure 6). Tape a sheet of paper to the table.2. (As long as the laser pointer stays fixed. With the prism empty. Check periodically to make sure that the beam is still hitting its original spot. mark the point where the undiverted laser hits (point b in Figure 6). is a more detailed view of the prism which illustrates how to measure the angle of minimum deviation.

It's a good idea to check it for each measurement. Measure the distance.") Record the angle in your data table. and should not have a significant effect on the index of refraction of the liquid. of the liquid in the prism. Next. 9. 14.) When the prism is rotated correctly. The distances you have measure define the angle of minimum deviation. To get the angle. 10. and record it in your data table. mark the position of the emerging beam on the paper on the wall (point a in Figure 6). The ratio x/L is the tangent of the angle. Now you can move the prism aside. mark the point where the beam emerges from the prism (point f in Figure 6).334. between points b and c. (A pinch of nondairy creamer in the liquid can help you visualize the beam within the prism. . Mark the point (c) where the string crosses the line between d and e. Now that you have the angle of minimum deviation. 13. n. L. stretch a string from point a so that it passes over point f.should be remain constant throughout your experiment. 12. Use a ruler to draw a line from point d to point e. 15. Now add liquid to the prism.) 8. θmd. To check that your setup is working. This marks the path of the undiverted beam. and record it in your data table. Leave the paper taped in place. On the paper on the table. 11. you can use equation 4 to calculate the index of refraction. 16. To do this. Measure the distance. plain water should have an index of refraction of 1. use your calculator to find the arctangent of x/L. you want to extend a line from point a (on the wall) through point f (on the table). between points a and b. x. You want to rotate the prism so that the path of the refracted beam within the prism (solid blue line from d to f in Figure 6) is parallel with the base of the prism. (The arctangent of x/L means "the angle whose tangent is equal to x/L.

S t f o a r n d a r C o m d p a S u g a r r i s o n S o l u t i o n s 1. and 15% sugar solutions. Measure the index of refraction of each sugar solution. Use the following table for amounts of sugar and water to use in order to make 5%. 10%. you should be able to estimate the sugar concentration of the unknown solution. combined with the data you have from your known sugar solutions. a clear soft drink or fruit juice). If you measure a carbonated beverage. . make sure that there are no bubbles in the path of the laser (gently dislodge them from the side of the glass. 3. if necessary).g.. With the index of refraction of the unknown solution. Now measure the index of refraction of a solution with unknown sugar concentration (e. 4. desired concentration 5% 10 15 amount sugar (g) 5 10 15 amount water (mL) 95 90 85 2.

" [accessed September 25.pdf.html. "A Liquid Prism for Refractive Index Studies..D.sunysb. Nierer.usc. 2002.physics.. 2001. E. "How Does Sugar Density Affect the Index of Refraction of Water?" California State Science Fair Abstract [October 2. J.pdf .divched." Journal of Chemical Education 78(11):1479–1480. 2006] available online at: http://www.edu/~jennifer/journal/prism. [accessed October 2.K. Soderstrom..edu/CSSF/History/2004/Projects/J1533.REFERENCES: • • Edmiston.org/hs/Journal/Issues/2001/Nov/clicSubscriber/V78 N11/p1479. "Using the Prism Method. 2004. 2006] http://laser. M. 2006] http://www.jce.